The word into is a preposition that expresses movement between two elements in a sentence. “In to” is a verb phrase consisting of two separate words, where “in” is part of a verb phrase and “to” is a preposition or part of an infinitive (to + verb).
What is the difference between into vs. in to?
Into is one of the most common terms in the English Language, but it’s also one of the easiest to misuse. The phrase “in to” is pronounced nearly identical to into, but “in to” consists of two separate words. Into and “in to” also have different meanings, so it’s important to learn how they’re used in sentences correctly.
The first and most important difference between into vs. “in to” is that into is a preposition, which means it precedes a noun or pronoun to conceptualize location or direction. Within English sentences, it’s also common to find the word into occurring after a verb. Basic sentence structures might include:
Verb + preposition + noun/pronoun = “Walking into school”
Preposition + noun/pronoun = “Into the black”
As shown in the second example, English grammar also uses determiners between prepositions and nouns. Determiners allow us to introduce specific nouns or adjectives to describe nouns. If the first example said, “Walking into the gloomy school,” the term “the” would be a determiner, and “gloomy” is the adjective describing the following noun.
The second important difference is that the phrase “in to” consists of either “in” as an adverb and “to” as a preposition, or “in” as an adverb and “to” as part of an infinitive. An adverb modifies or describes the verb preceding it in a sentence. Phrasal verbs using “in” as an adverb particle generally follow the structure of:
Verb + adverb + infinitive = “Come in to clean.”
Verb + adverb + adjective + noun = “Brought in messy dogs.”
An infinitive is a standard form of a verb that is unmodified and is recognizable when preceded by “to.” For example,
- To visit
- To love
- To dream
Using “to” as part of an infinitive allow us to indicate an action’s purpose. Infinitives allow verbs to convey a purpose or act as subject complements, direct objects, sentence subjects, adverbs, and adjectives.
Examples of “to” as part of an infinitive (to + infinitive)
Purpose of action: “I came to pick up my pay paycheck.”
Subject complement: “His goal is to write professionally.”
Direct object: “I love to cook for people.”
Sentence subject: “To protest is sure death.”
Adverb: “We’re excited to swim.”
Adjective: “The student has homework to finish.”
You may have noticed how infinitives often follow a different verb in sentences, and this is a great way to identify whether a “to” is part of an infinitive or a preposition.
“She wants to work in real estate.”
“Let’s volunteer to clean up the park.”
What does into mean?
The word into is a preposition and function word that indicates direction, position, a condition, or length of time. In more limited circumstances, the word into is used in mathematics to describe the act of division.
Synonyms of into
In the direction of, inside, through to, toward, upon, within.
Antonyms of into
Away, from, out, disinterested, multiply.
Etymology of into
The word into is a Middle English term derived from Old English intō, which shared meaning with the Latin preposition “in.”
What does in to mean?
“In to” is a verb phrase and not a word, so defining the phrase is subjective to its use in a sentence. The phrase “in to” consists of the words “in” and “to,” which convey different means into their own accord. When used together, “in” is used as an adverb as part of a phrasal verb, and “to” is either prepositional or part of an infinitive.
How to use into for a sentence?
The English language uses the preposition into when describing movement, but the type of movement can vary depending on the context. Here are the many ways we can use into for indicating action or direction:
Describing the movement that is going inside something else.
“Let’s drive into town.”
“He’s walking into the living room.”
“She pushed the spear into his heart.”
Describing movement that’s directed toward a general direction.
“Children should not look into the chimney on Christmas Eve.”
“I’m not going into this conversation unprepared.”
“Look into the source before interviewing them.”
Indicating a transformation of condition or state.
He transformed into a villain
We stumbled into good fortune.
My brother walked into trouble.
Describing a condition of involvement, personal interest, or career.
I’m really into music production.
She got into acting around 1996.
She’s just not into him.
Area of Time
Describing movement within an area or time.
Mother can work into the new year and retire by summer.
The season is moving into fall.
How to use “in to” for a sentence
The phrase “in to” consists of the words “in” and “to.” When added together, the word “in” becomes an adverb, and “to” remains a preposition or becomes part of the following infinitive verb.
Using “in to” with an adverb and preposition
Example: “Log in to your Google account.”
This phrase uses the word “in” as an adverb that modifies the verb “log.” Meanwhile, the example sentence uses the word “to” as a preposition because it’s indicating an action toward a destination.
Using “in to” with an adverb and infinitive
Example: “I’m checking in to see how you’re doing.”
As we can see from the second sentence example, the “in” is still an adverb because it modifies the verb “checking,” but now the “to” is part of the infinitive “see,” as a preposition.
Grammar rules for identifying “to” vs. “in order to”
We use “to” for infinitives while conveying the phrase “in order to.” This particular phrase is a subordinating conjunction, and when used with an infinitive, it conveys a purpose because it’s now a dependent clause.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of “to” vs. “in order to:”
Phrase: “In order to drive, I need gasoline.”
Preposition: “To drive, I need gasoline.”
Phrase: “He played “Cat’s in the Cradle” in order to send a message.”
Preposition: “He played “Cat’s in the Cradle” to send a message.”
Grammar tip for using “in order to:”
The phrase “in order to” is a bit wordy, so editors often ask writers to limit the phrase by writing “to” instead.
How to remember the difference between into vs. in to?
There’s no easy way to remember the difference between into vs. in to, such as using a mnemonic tool. But, if you observe enough sentence examples, you will start recognizing patterns of prepositions and infinitives involving the phrase “in to.” To distinguish these confusing parts of speech, we must learn when “to” is a preposition or a part of an infinitive.
How to tell when “to” is a preposition or part of the infinitive
There are two easy methods to tell whether the “to” of “in to” is a preposition or part of the infinitive.
Method 1: Does “to” convey the phrase “in order to”?
If “to” conveys the phrase “in order to” by indicating purpose, then “to” is part of the infinitive and not a preposition.
“Amy came in to make sure Bob was awake.”
Correct: From this sentence, we know Amy arrived somewhere in order to make sure Bob wasn’t asleep. Because the phrase “in order to” applies, we know “in” is part of the phrasal verb “came in” and “to” is part of the infinitive “to make sure.”
“Let us check in to the hotel first.”
Incorrect: The second example does not use “to” for indicating the phrase “in order to” because the sentence doesn’t show a purpose. The sentence’s verb “check” uses “in” as part of a phrasal verb and “to” acts as a preposition for a noun (“the hotel”).
Method 2: Does “to” occur after a phrasal verb and before a noun?
“To” is a preposition if it occurs after a phrasal verb and before a noun, pronoun, or determiner.
“You’ll need to log in to your email before viewing the message.”
Correct: For the first sentence example, the word “in” is an adverb because it modifies the verb “log,” and “to” is a preposition because it precedes the determiner “your” and the noun “email.”
“You have to come in to hear the short stories.”
Incorrect: For this example, the phrase “in to” contains “in” as an adverb because it is part of the phrasal verb “come in.” The word “to” is not a preposition because it is part of the infinitive “to hear.”
Into vs. in to: grammar guide to common verbs
Understanding into vs. “in to” gets better with practice, but sometimes we need a little extra help with our writing. Using the incorrect adverbs or prepositions can inadvertently switch the meaning of our sentences or allow us to be wordy. Let’s take a look at common English verb phrases that are easily misused with into and “in to.”
Verb + into or in to
|Verb||+into (preposition) + noun||+in to [adverb + infinitive or preposition]|
|Back||into painting.||in to finish classes.|
|Break||into dancing.||in to steal.|
|Check||into the office.||in to see.|
|Come||into the house.||in to visit.|
|Delve||into the conversation.||in to understand.|
|Dig||into dinner.||in to taste.|
|Dive||into the sea.||in to swim.|
|Drop||into the tea.||in to chat.|
|Enter||into the document.||in to sign.|
|Fall||into the abyss.||in to hit the bottom.|
|Fit||into the cocoon.||in to conceal.|
|Fly||into LAX.||in to tour California.|
|Get||into ESL.||in to learn ESL.|
|Go||into work.||in to finish work.|
|Inquire||into an advisor.||in to advise others.|
|Jump||into the lake.||in to have fun.|
|Lay||into them.||in to make a point.|
|Log||into Facebook.||in to access.|
|Look||into possibilities.||in to see.|
|Run||into a werewolf.||in to escape.|
|Search||into suspects.||in to find.|
|Sign||into Instagram.||in to Instagram a photo.|
|Slip||into a dress.||in to sneak by.|
|Transmit||into masses.||in to kill.|
|Tune||into the show.||in to listen or in to shows.|
|Turn||into your mother.||in to receive a grade.|
|Wade||into the bay.||in to feel the bottom of the bay.|
FAQ: Related to into vs. in to
Turn in to vs. turn into?
The phrases “turn in to” and “turn into” are particularly tricky when it comes to discussing the acts of submission and transformation. Let’s use common examples involving education:
“Turn in to your teacher.”
Correct: Using this phrase is grammatically correct if the context of an assignment is already known.
“Turn the assignment in to receive a grade.”
Correct: This second sentence provides more context and also uses “in to” correctly.
“Turn into your teacher.”
Incorrect: If you’re describing the act of submitting homework to your teacher, this sentence is incorrect. Because we’re using the word “into” as a preposition, the word turn is a verb of transformation, not submission. If you were to “turn into your teacher,” you would transform into your teacher.
“Turn the assignment into your teacher.”
Incorrect: While this sentence is grammatically correct, the context of using “into” is wrong. In this case, we would only use this sentence if we were to transform an assignment into the physical being of a teacher.
Log in to vs. log into vs. login?
The word “login” is not yet in the American English dictionary, but tech platforms with a login portal use this term as a noun or adjective. We “log in” to login portals and have “login” information to access (log in) to our software.
The verb “log in” is more tricky while using platforms like Facebook or Instagram because their names are used like nouns, verbs, or sometimes both. The best way to maneuver this common error is to try providing more context for the specific action.
“Log into” (preposition)
“I’m going to log into Facebook.”
“I can’t log into Instagram.”
“Log into your account.”
“Log in to” (adverb + infinitive)
“Log in to Facebook your friends.”
“Log in to Paypal.”
“Log in to your PayPal account.”
“The login screen.”
“Google account login.”
“Where’s the login page?”
“What’s your login for Facebook?”
How well do you know the difference between into or “in to”? Test your grammar skills with the following multiple-choice questions.
- Ted didn’t __________ his Instagram account.
b. Log in to
c. Log into
d. B or C
- Students are expected to __________ educational podcasts.
a. Tune in to
b. Tune into
c. Tune in
d. All of the above
- Let’s crawl __________ the portal and look __________ see if Narnia exists.
a. Into, in to
b. Into, into
c. In to, into
d. In to, in to
- Which of the following phrases do not contain an adverb?
a. Come down
b. Back away
c. Make out
d. None of the above
- Which of the following phrases does not contain a preposition?
a. Come down
b. Back away
c. Make out
d. None of the above
- “Delve (into).” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “Determiners.” EF Education First Ltd, 2020.
- “In.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “Infinitive.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
- “Into.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “Into.” Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Dictionary.com, 2013.
- “Log on.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “Phrasal verbs and multi-word verbs.” English Grammar Today, Cambridge Dictionary, 2020.
- “Prepositions of Location: At, In, On.” The Writing Lab, Purdue University, 2020.
- “Subordinating Conjunctions.” The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.