Using into vs in to can cause many writers to wonder what the best choice is, but the English language has some clearly defined rules that apply to these two.
Are you going to go into the fray or in to the fray? The preposition “into” and the phrase “in to” can easily confuse writers, because these two are homonyms. They sound exactly the same, but they have slightly different grammar rules.
Thankfully, when you learn these rules you can easily determine which of the two to use. This guide will help break it down so you can write confidently, no matter what subject matter you're getting “into.”
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Into vs In To: Subtle but Important Difference
To know how to use “into” and “in to” correctly, writers must first understand what these two words are and mean.
“Into” is a preposition. It means “to the inside” of something. The word “into” is used to indicate movement or action taking place, and it can also answer the question “where?”
“In to” as separate words is a phrase. The “in” is part of the verb phrase. The “to” introduces a prepositional phrase or the infinitive.
When to Use “Into”
“Into” must introduce a prepositional phrase. It also usually indicates action or movement is taking place. Some examples of “into” used properly include:
- The tired toddler crawled into her mother's lap and promptly fell asleep.
- She threw another log into the fire to keep it going.
- The firefighter ran into the burning house.
In each of these, “into” is the preposition that opens the prepositional phrase, so the words are correct.
When to Use “In To”
Writers use “in to” when the words need to take different actions in the sentence. The word “in” is part of the predicate, usually an adverb showing where the action takes place or as part of a phrasal verb.
The word “to” can perform different roles. It is used as a preposition often, in which case it has an object. It can also be part of the infinitive, such as “to pay.” Here are some examples:
- The firefighter rushed in to save the girl.
In this instance, “in” describes where he ran and “to save” is an infinitive.
- The boy gave in to the peer pressure from his classmates.
In this instance, “in” is part of the predicate, while “to” is the start of the prepositional phrase “to the peer pressure.”
More Examples of “to” as a Preposition
Keeping straight “in to” as a phrase is sometimes hard. This is an important part of semantics in the English language because the difference can actually change the meaning. Consider these two example sentences:
- The snowboarder dropped in to the halfpipe.
- The snowboarder dropped into the halfpipe.
Though they may look like they mean the same, they don't and actually have different meanings. In the first example, “dropped in” is a predicate that refers to starting a run on a half pipe in the sport of snowboarding. In the second, the writer actually means that the snowboarder fell and dropped “into” the halfpipe, which would be unintentional.
- The family will check in to the hotel later.
Here, “check in” is a verb phrase. The “in” must be part of a phrasal verb for the sentence to make sense.
More Examples of “to” as Part of an Infinitive
More commonly, “in to” is used when the “to” is part of the infinitive. In these sentences, “to” means “in order to.” It is very important that it goes with the infinitive phrase.
Here is an example:
- The medic rushed in to perform CPR on the person who fainted.
Here, the medic is rushing in “to perform” The writer could also say:
- The medic rushed in in order to perform CPR on the person who fainted.
Both sentences have the same meaning, but the second is wordier, and thus not necessary. By using “to” as part of the infinitive and “in” as part of the verb phrase, the writer can state the same meaning more concisely.
How to Choose the Correct Form of “Into” or “In To”
Because “into” and “in to” sound exactly the same in spoken English language, they are commonly confused words. Using the wrong term is a common error in written English. So how can you use them correctly?
An easy trick is to read the sentence out loud. Placing a pause between “in” and “to” will show whether the separate words are correct, or if the preposition “into” is. If the reading does not make sense with the pause, then you need “into,” but if it does, then “in to” is likely correct.
The Final Word on Into vs In To
Into and in to are common errors in written language because they sound exactly the same. It takes a skilled writer and a keen eye to spot these problems. However, if you are committed to strong writing, you will take the time to learn how to use these two as the correct parts of speech.
So don't be afraid to jump “into” the fray and tackle these tricky words, armed with the correct information.
FAQs About Into vs In To
Is there a difference between into and in to?
Yes, “into” is a preposition that leads a prepositional phrase. “In to” involves “in” as part of the verbal phrase and “to” as a preposition or part of the infinitive. These two have different meanings.
How do you use “into” in a sentence?
Into is always used as a preposition. If the word cannot open a prepositional phrase, then it likely needs to be split into separate words as in “in to.”
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