In to vs. Into: Usage Tips You Won’t Forget

Some writers may think that placing in and to together in a sentence means that they should become into. This is a common error. Although they have similar spellings and sounds, into and in to are not synonyms. Keep reading for examples of when to use into versus in to.

Into vs In to ExampleInto vs In to Example

How to Use Into

While both in and to are prepositions that describe position, into indicates movement. It is part of a verb phrase that establishes the action and moves the noun. There are a few different ways to use into correctly in different sentences.

Going Inside Something Else

Into can indicate a movement toward the interior of a concrete or abstract noun. These items can include a place, an item, or a thought. Here are some examples of into in a sentence.

  • I headed into the club.

  • Marv put the money into his wallet.

  • Please put the laundry into your drawers.

  • It’s common to go into shock after being in a car accident.

It’s tempting to use in instead of into for these examples. However, in describes an object when it is already in its place, not when it is moving there. If your noun ends up within another noun by the end of the sentence, you’ve used into correctly. 

Transformation

Another way to use into is when one noun transforms into another noun. This process can be magical or figurative, depending on the rest of the sentence. Check out these sentences in which into indicates transformation.

  • The caterpillar transitioned into a butterfly.

  • I realized that I am turning into my mother.

  • A great website can convert clicks into customers.

  • The noise in the classroom was quickly turning into chaos.

These examples could convey the same meaning as the word become. Like the other use of into, transformative sentences take a noun from one state to another. They work inside a verb phrase to demonstrate movement.

How to Use In To

In to uses the same two prepositions as into, but that’s where the similarities end. Both in and to are common parts of separate phrases in which in is the last word of a phrase and to the first word of another phrase. It gets confusing when they are next to each other in a sentence.

When In Is Part of a Phrasal Verb

In is often the last word in a phrasal verb, which refers to a verb followed by a preposition. You use phrasal verbs every day without knowing it. Examples of phrasal verbs include:

  • Drop in

  • Log in

  • Break in

  • Turn in

  • Fill in

  • Move in

  • Give in

  • Chime in

  • Hand in

It gets challenging when a phrase with to immediately follows these phrasal verbs. You may feel that combining in and to is the correct answer, but that’s not the case.

When To is a Preposition

Like into, the preposition to indicates movement from one location to another. However, it does not include the in part of into that denotes the interior position of the noun. Check out these examples of prepositional phrases that coincidentally come after a phrasal verb with in.

  • You can chime in to the discussion.

  • Don’t give in to his demands.

  • Now log in to the email server.

  • She handed her notice in to the shift supervisor.

  • Turn in to the third driveway on the right.

The most problematic phrasal verb is often turn in, as turn has several different meanings. The sentence “Turn in to the driveway on the right” seems like it should have the word into instead because it shows movement. However, a reader could misinterpret the sentence to mean “transform into a driveway.” You should use in to when using this phrasal verb to avoid confusion.

You can also rearrange the fourth sentence to avoid this issue altogether: She handed in her notice to the shift supervisor. This way, in and to are no longer next to one another.

When To Is Part of an Infinitive

Infinitive phrases use the word to plus a verb. When combined with a phrasal verb, they can form in to in a sentence. However, they should never be shortened to into. For example:

  • Consider chipping in to support this charity.

  • Did he break in to steal the necklace?

  • You have to log in to see your account.

  • The student dropped in to discuss his paper.

  • Henry is moving in to save money on rent.

These instances are less confusing than when to is used as an infinitive phrase. Into does not look as correct in these cases. Still, it’s important to understand exactly why in to is the proper choice.

Useful Tips for Telling Them Apart

If you’re staring at in and to and wondering whether or not to combine them, there are some easy ways to figure it out. Use this checklist to determine whether you mean to say in and to or into.

Use into if:

  • Your noun moved inside something else.

  • Your noun was transformed into another noun.

Use in to if:

  • Your noun hasn’t moved in the sentence.

  • You’re trying to say “in order to.”

  • Into doesn’t make sense.

More Tricky Grammar Resources

Into and in to aren’t the only prepositions that are easy to mix up. Learn how to use in and on correctly with an informative article. You can also practice telling prepositions apart with a selection of fun preposition games.

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