For this week’s Grammar 101 we have another set of words that sound the same and often get confused. The most common mistake is mixing up “to” and “too,” though I have seen “two” thrown in the mix as well. Let’s begin by breaking them down.
To: Well, this is a complicated one. “To” is rather versatile, so I’ll break it down in its pieces. (Exact definitions in italics obtained from dictionary.com)
- A preposition used for expression motion or direction toward a point, person, place or thing approached and reached, as opposed to from. Ex: They came to the mall to meet us.
- A preposition used for expressing direction or motion or direction toward something. In the direction of; toward. Ex: The storm is moving from west to east.
- A preposition used for expressing limit of movement or extension. Ex: I grew to 5’7.”
- A preposition used for expressing contact or contiguity; on; against; beside; upon. Ex: I’m going to apply polish to my nails.
- A preposition used for expressing a point of limit in time; before; until. Ex: We take a long break from the beginning of November to the beginning of January.
- An adverb: toward a contact point or closed position. Ex: Pull the door to.
- An adverb: toward a matter, action, or work. Ex: We turned to with a will.
- An adverb: into a state of consciousness; out of unconsciousness. Ex: She came to after a few minutes.
Is your head spinning yet? I know that’s A LOT to take in! The good news is, that’s the most complex word of the three, and you may be able to get to the answer by process of elimination. If it doesn’t fit the other words you can probably turn to “to” for the answer.
Too: The good news is “too” is only used as an adverb! It can be a very diverse adverb, but it is only used as an adverb nonetheless! Let’s look at how we can use it.
- In excess. Ex. I had too much cake.
- In addition, also. Ex. They wanted ice cream, too.
See, that wan’t too painful, was it?
Two: Here is the really easy one! It’s the number two! That’s it! No special rules or different uses. Ex: I have two gerbils.
Tips to prevent getting them confused
Again, I first suggest to turn to their meaning.
- First and foremost you can eliminate “two” right away. Of course, if you ARE wanting the word that represents the number or amount you should USE “two,” but if you’re not you can eliminate “two.”
- Next, check the word’s meaning for “excess.” Does it mean having excess, feeling excess? If so, “too,” is the correct word to use. If not, move on to the next step.
- Finally, check the word for meaning “in addition, also, and as well.” Are you trying to convey that meaning? If so, “too” is the correct word to use. It’s also highly likely it will be at the very end of the sentence following a comma (though not always). If the meaning “in addition, also, or as well” doesn’t make sense then it’s time to move on to using the word “to.”
You thought it would be more complicated, right? Well, “to” IS very complicated as you can see, which is why I suggest using the process of elimination when in doubt. If you truly aren’t sure which of the three is correct I suggest eliminating the two other words in order to come to the correct conclusion. Then, to double check you can match it up with one of the definitions of “to” just to be sure it makes sense!
Put them together! She’s going to buy two loaves of bread, too.
Stay tuned for Grammar 101 next week where I will be discussing the how to appropriate use the different tenses of “to lay” (ex. lay, lie, lain).
Grammar Resource of the Week
This week’s grammar resource is Grammar Girl. Check it out for a variety of grammar topics! She covers each topic in amazing detail!