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English Lesson 4: Correct Use of To, Too, and Two

April 5th, 2008

english-usage-to-too-two.jpgConfusion among the words to, too, and two ranks almost as highly as errors involving it’s and its in terms of overall prevalence. Among the three, the word to is usually the most commonly used and has many different meanings that can be found when we look up the word in a dictionary. In most cases, the word is used as a preposition but there are a few less common instances where it can be used as an adverb. Here are some of the most important meanings of the word to, followed by examples of correct usage:

  • toward, in the direction of, or becoming closer in distance
    1. We went to the store.
    2. The advisor turned to me and explained the idea.
  • against, in contact with
    1. His neck was pressed to the ground by the boots of fascist pigs.
  • concerning, regarding
    1. We are waiting for a reply to my email.
  • constituting, composing
    1. There are four quarts to a gallon.
  • indication of an infinitive verb form
    1. We wanted to go.
    2. The investors were looking to buy.
  • awaking into consciousness
    1. After being in a coma for several days, the patient finally came to.
  • move into a closed position
    1. Please push the door to so I can get some sleep.
  • a specific nautical usage meaning “into the wind”
    1. The captain shouted, “Heave to and lower the anchor!”

Meanwhile, the word too is relatively easy to understand because there are only two basic meanings:

  • also, in addition to
    1. After reading about how much money could be made on the Internet, she wanted to set up a website too.
  • excessively, more than is necessary
    1. Putting too many graphics or advertisements on a web page may slow down loading times and discourage visitors from reading your content.
    2. As a libertarian Internet marketer, you can never have too much money, too many referrals, or too much freedom.

Finally, two is the easiest of the three words to understand because it simply refers to the number that is the sum of 1 + 1:

  1. Two income streams are better than one, although having more than two is better still because we can diversify our assets and minimize risk.

Now for some examples of incorrect usage, followed by the corrected forms:

Incorrect: he seems to scarred to ask you and he wants you too hurry up and ask him out and he is jus tryin to make you do that a lot quicker by actin lik he is losing interest — user “wolfeman8″ on Yahoo! Answers

Correct: He seems too scared to ask you and probably wants you to hurry up and ask him out first. By acting like he is losing interest, he is hoping to persuade you to ask him out much sooner.

Incorrect: Do you think I waste to much money? — Question asked by user “Animal lover” on Yahoo! Answers

Correct: Do you think I waste too much money?

Incorrect: The solution is too make sure that any data being return is encoded as UTF-8. — Joshua Eichorn of blog.joshuaeichorn.com

Correct: The solution is to make sure that any data being returned is encoded as UTF-8.

Incorrect: The cost was 8 cents and her father told her that was two much money. — Ann Werrebroeck Herman at belgium.rootsweb.ancestry.com

Correct: The cost was 8 cents and her father told her that was too much money.

The topic for next week is still open for discussion, but at this point I am leaning toward either covering then vs. than or addressing the issue of apostrophe abuse, which includes the widespread but incorrect use of apostrophes in plural nouns.



13 Responses to “English Lesson 4: Correct Use of To, Too, and Two”

  1. comment number 1 by: Mom

    Love the examples! . The “real life” examples add a nice touch. Excellent post - I vote for the apostrophe for the next article, but will be happy to read whatever most readers want.

  2. comment number 2 by: the commentator

    Got it. I will do the same thing on my blog to.

    Eight cents was to much? Wouldn’t want two be that kid.

    Thanks for this. But now I have too go too the market.

  3. comment number 3 by: Polina

    I have another problem regarding usage of “to” with some verbs (especially ones concerning communication), I can never remember when “to” is a must and when it can be omitted, like:
    “tell somebody”, but “speak to somebody”, “say to somebody(?)”…

    Sometimes both variants (with and without “to”) look to be ok:
    “write him a letter” + “write a letter to him”, “give me something” + “give something to me”…

    Don’t you have any hint on how to know which verbs are always used along with “to” and which ones are not?

  4. comment number 4 by: Linda

    Is this the correct use of to and too. (I have no problem with “two” as it is for a number). So this is the voice of reason you choose too listen to?

  5. comment number 5 by: Karlonia

    @Linda:

    The sentence would be written like this:

    So this is the voice of reason you choose to listen to?

    In the first instance of “to”, we’re simply choosing to do something, not choosing an excessive amount. Alternatively, we could do a minor rewrite of the sentence so it reads like this:

    So is this the voice of reason that you’re listening to?

    This avoids the somewhat awkward situation of having two instances of “to” close together in the sentence.

  6. comment number 6 by: Betty

    An amazing access ! Thank you so much !

  7. comment number 7 by: matthew anderson

    what about after “i love you”?

  8. comment number 8 by: Karlonia

    @Matthew:

    It would be “I love you too.” The word “too” is being used in the same sense as “also”.

  9. comment number 9 by: Nelon

    How about when used in an argument, as in, “I was too joking.” Yes, or no there?

  10. comment number 10 by: Fiona

    Thanks for this, I always struggle with the correct use of grammar so this was a great help.

  11. comment number 11 by: Kay-c

    Which is correct? Sandy and William like it to. Or Sandy and William like it too.

  12. comment number 12 by: Karlonia

    @Kay-c:

    The latter statement (Sandy and William like it too) is correct.

    @Nelon: That would depend somewhat on your intended usage. “I was too joking” could be interpreted to mean “I was also joking” or “I was joking too much”. Without context I am not sure exactly what you mean in that statement, but I do not see any problem with it from a strictly grammatical point of view.

  13. comment number 13 by: Shandi

    I have always struggled with proper spelling and grammar and Word was never really enough, it corrects spelling but not grammar. Thank you making this website, I’m going to bookmark it for when I have questions on proper grammar.

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