Despite sounding exactly the same, to, too, and two are all different words with different meanings and functions. So, what is the difference between to, too, and two? It is a good English lesson to learn, as it will save you from needless lectures by teachers and professors in the future if you can keep track of them now.
When to Use To
So, let’s begin with “to.” To has two primary functions that can help us identify when to use it in a sentence. The first function is that of a preposition. When “to” is acting as a preposition, it will always come before a noun. For example,
- Yesterday, I drove to the mall.
- That was my first trip to Ann Arbor.
- Do you want to go to lunch?
- I brought my computer to the Apple store.
Notice that in each one of these examples, “to” comes before a noun (mall, Ann Arbor, lunch, store).
The second function of “to” is that it indicates to the reader that the verb to follow is an infinitive. In this case, “to” will come before a verb in its infinitive form. For example,
- I asked him to leave.
- I need to pack my clothes.
- I should really get to work.
- To be or not to be.
All of the verbs following “to” in these sentences are infinitives.
When to Use Too
Too also has two main uses that we can use to help us determine when to use it. The first use is as a synonym for “also.” For example,
- My brother will be coming along too.
- Sell the house and furniture too.
The second use of “too” is to mean excessively or to such a degree as to be regrettable. In this second case, “too” will always precede an adjective or adverb. For example,
- I am far too full to have desert.
- You are speaking too quickly; I cannot understand.
- I think you have gone too far this time.
- Four examples are too many.
A good way to remember the difference between “to” and “too” is that “too” has an extra “O” in it. You might say that it has too many O’s. Or that its amount of O’s are in excess.
When to Use Two
Two is the easiest of the three to keep track of because it is the most distinct. Two is a number, and its “tw” easily fits into other words such as “twice” and “twenty,” which signify the number “2.” Some examples,
- Two comes before three.
- Bicycles have two wheels.
- I have two arms and two legs.
Remember the Difference
There is a clever mnemonic to remember the difference between these three words,
- To have two cookies is too much!
Another good way to remember is how an English professor of mine once described them to me,
- Too (also or in excess)
- Two (the number)
- To (everything else)
While this is not overly illustrative on the meaning of “to,” it gets across the essential point. Too and two are easy enough to remember. If neither too nor two fit the situation, it’s got to be to.