apply (oneself) to (something)
To put forth effort toward some task or goal. Honey, if you would just apply yourself to your schoolwork, you would get much better grades.
1. To use for a specific reason or goal. In this usage, a noun appears between "apply" and "to." I want to live debt-free, so I just applied all of my savings to my student loans.
2. To take action for a specific outcome. In this usage, a noun appears between "apply" and "to." If you apply more time to your studies, I'm sure you'll pass your test. Apply more pressure to stop the bleeding.
3. To rub or place something onto another surface. In this usage, a noun appears between "apply" and "to." Apply the cream to your foot once a day to reduce the inflammation. Have you applied the frosting to the cake yet?
4. To submit an application for something, such as a job, school, or program. I applied to the scholarship program, but I haven't heard anything back yet. Which colleges have you applied to?
5. To impact or be pertinent to a person, thing, or group. The new dress code applies to all employees, regardless of seniority. I'm pretty sure that rule only applies to underclassmen.
apply something to something
1. Lit. to put something onto the surface of something. Apply the decal to the surface of the glass. Apply the paint evenly to each surface.
2. Fig. to use something, such as force, effort, etc., on something or in the performance of some task. Apply more effort in your school work. An even greater effort has been applied to make sure we finish on time.
apply to someone or something
[for rules, laws, etc.] to affect someone or something; to be relevant to someone or something. Does this rule apply to me? These policies apply only to very large companies.
1. To attach something to the surface of something: You must apply the glue to the paper sparingly, or else the paper will wrinkle.
2. To put something to some special use: She applied all her income to the mortgage.
3. To be pertinent or relevant to someone or something: This rule applies to everyone; there are no exceptions.
4. To request or seek assistance, admission, or employment from some organization: I will apply to college next year.
5. To devote someone or someone's efforts to something. Used reflexively: In the summer I relaxed, but in the fall I applied myself to my studies.