It’s easy to assume that every instance of in and to appearing next to each other should actually be into, but that’s not always the case. Even though the only thing separating the two is a space, into and in to have vastly different meanings and applications.
Into vs. In To: Simple Ways to Tell Them Apart
‘Into’ vs. ‘In To’: Prepositions
Into, in, and to are all prepositions. Prepositions describe the relation of a noun or pronoun with another noun or pronoun. This is usually a positional relation, like above, below, before, or after.
Into typically indicates movement of one thing going inside another. In to usually appears with phrasal verbs that end with in, like give in and drop in.
How To Use ‘Into’
Into is used when something moves through the interior of a concrete or abstract noun. These items can include a place, an item or a thought.
- I’m heading into the library now.
- Marv shoved the money into his pocket.
- Make sure you fold your laundry and put it into your drawers.
- Type your information into the correct fields.
While it might be tempting to use in, 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.
‘Into’ Used in 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.
How To Use ‘In To’
A phrasal verb is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or adverb. A ton of phrasal verbs have in as their last word:
- Drop in
- Log in
- Break in
- Turn in
- Fill in
- Move in
- Give in
- Chime in
- Hand in
These phrasal verbs come as a pair, meaning in stays as in even when it precedes to.
- I was having trouble logging in to the website this morning.
- I refuse to give in to the harsh demands of my teacher.
- Please feel free to chime in to have your voice heard.
- Is it okay to drop in to say hello?
‘In’ and Infinitive Phrases
An infinitive phrase combines to and a verb, like to see, to eat and to drink. When in precedes an infinitive phrase, the in and to stay separate.
- 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.
Tip for Using ‘Into’ and ‘In To’
If you haven’t memorized every phrasal verb in existence or otherwise don’t know whether to combine in and to, an easy trick is to ask one simple question: Where? Sentences that use into typically answer that question.
When you see into or in to in a sentence, ask yourself “where?”. If the latter half of the sentence answers that question, use into.
- The bat flew into the cave.
- Where did the bat fly? Into the cave.
Alternatively, replace into or in to with in order to. If in order to fits, you can use in to.
- The bat flew in to roost for the night.
- The bat flew in order to roost for the night.