Word Choices: 'Into' vs. 'In To'

2 min read

Sometimes the smallest words are the ones that trip us up the most. Take "into" and "in to" — when do you add the space and when do you make it one word? Here are some easy tricks and examples to help you keep your grammar on track.

When To Use “Into”

"Into" (as a single word) is a preposition that expresses the relation between things. Within this part of speech usage it can still have different meanings.

1) "Into" can be used to indicate movement of something toward something else.

Example: I walked into the table because the lights were off.

2) "Into" can also mean “in the direction of.”

Example: Don’t look into the laser directly.

3) "Into" can reference a point within time or space.

Example: How far into October are we?

4) "Into" can indicate a general interest.

Example: He’s getting into collecting Marvel action figures.

When To Use “In To”

Even though the same letters are used, that one space makes a world of difference for the meaning. The distinction is made by the word "in" used as an adverb to modify the preceding verb. When these two words are paired together, they don’t usually have any connection to each other, aside from adjacent placement.

Example: Turn your essays in to the teaching assistant when you're done with the exam.

Note that for that last example, if you used the incorrect "into" it would completely transform the meaning of the sentence. You're not a wizard, and can't transform your teacher into anything.

To determine which configuration to use, you need to examine the intention of the words "in" and "to." If they are connected to different parts of speech in the sentence, you'll insert that space.

If you have a hard time remembering when to insert that all-important space, try using the word "order." Slip the word “order” between “in” and “to” and see if the sentence still makes sense. If "order" fits, then you can use "in to." If the extra word confuses the meaning, then it's "into" you need.

Example:

INCORRECT: Go in order to the store for some milk.

CORRECT: Go into the store for some milk.

Photo Credit: Amy Lister/ Unsplash

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