Into vs. In To: What’s the Difference?

It can be tough sometimes to remember the difference between into and in to. They look very similar written on paper. Plus, when you say them out loud, they sound almost indistinguishable. But even though you may skip right over them in casual conversation, these words have subtle differences that are very important to remember when you are writing.

What is the Difference Between Into and In to?

So, is into a preposition or an adverb? The sense of the sentence should be able to tell you, but it still can be tricky. Today, I want to go over into vs. in to and give you a few tips to remember the difference.

When to Use Into

in to versus intoInto is a preposition that means to the inside or interior of. Into indicates movement or some type of action that is taking place.

  • After a long night, she crawled into her bed to go to sleep.
  • He threw the note into the fire.

It also often answers the questions “where?” For example,

  • Where is your mother?
  • She went into the Macy’s store.
  • Where is the store moving?
  • It’s moving into the new outlet mall.

When to Use In to

into vs in to grammarUse in to, two words, when in is part of a verb phrase. In instances when in is part of the verb, it is acting as an adverb and to is either a preposition, which takes an object, or part of an infinitive, such as to run. For example,

  • The firefighter ran back in to save the girl. (To is part of the infinitive here.)
  • You are either in to win or you’re not. (To is part of the infinitive here.)
  • The skateboarder dropped in to the ramp. (To is preposition here.)
  • He gave in to the pressure. (To is preposition here.)

To as Part of the Infinitive

When to is functioning as a part of an infinitive, it carries the meaning of “in order to.” Take our first example above,

  • The firefighter ran back in to save the girl.

This sentence means,

  • The firefighter ran back in in order to save the girl.

Here to belongs with save and no longer means “where?” but means “in order to.”

To as a Preposition

The third example sentence above illustrates another important difference between these two meanings of in to vs. into. For instance, what is the difference between the two following examples?

  • The skateboarder dropped into the ramp.
  • The skateboarder dropped in to the ramp.

In the first sentence, the skateboarder dropped and fell into the ramp, as if he went limp and collapsed into the ramp.

In the second sentence, the skateboarder “dropped in” to the ramp. To “drop in” is to start from the high point, or lip, of a skateboarding ramp and skate down the ramp.

So there is a huge difference between these two meanings. In the first, someone is getting injured. The second is just everyday skateboarding.

Remember the Difference

A good trick to keep track of these uses is to say your sentences aloud.

Say them aloud and pause between in and to. If, as a result of this pause, the sentence sounds incorrect, you probably need into.

This isn’t a 100 percent accurate test, but it will get you by most of the time.

Summary

These two uses can have vastly different meanings, so we need to be careful when using into and in to.

Into is a preposition and related to direction and movement, answering the questions, “Where?”

In to: when paired with each other, in acts as a part of a verbal phrase and to acts as a preposition or a part of an infinitive.

 

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