• 2-minute read
  • 30th March 2017

Word Choice: Into vs. In To

In spoken English, it’s common to pronounce ‘into’ and ‘in to’ in the same way. This can make it difficult to understand the difference when using them in writing.

Although this isn’t the biggest grammatical error you could make, it’s worth avoiding, especially in academic writing. Therefore, making sure you understand the distinction is important.

Into (Movement and Change)

This word is a preposition that normally indicates a change, a movement, or a relationship between two terms in a sentence, either physically or metaphorically. This could include:

  • Movement towards or entering something (e.g. Janet jumped into the pool)
  • Indicating a change in state (e.g. Ice turns into liquid when heated)
  • Meaning ‘about’ or ‘relating to’ something (e.g. An investigation into the murder)
  • Showing interest in something (e.g. I’m really into soccer these days)

The first example above highlights a physical movement, but it can also describe an action carried out over a long period of time:

He worked deep into the night, trying to finish the chapter.

Similarly, the change described by this term can be non-physical, such as translating something into another language. In all cases, though, it indicates a relationship between two things.

In To (Part of a Verb Phrase)

We keep ‘in’ and ‘to’ separate when ‘in’ is the particle in a phrasal verb (e.g. ‘drop in’) and ‘to’ is the accompanying preposition. For example:

I dropped in to see my friend.Correct

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I dropped into see my friend.Incorrect

In the first example, the phrasal verb ‘drop in’ means to spontaneously or briefly visit someone, so it is treated liked a single verb.

The preposition ‘to’ in this sentence indicates the purpose of the visit (i.e. ‘to see my friend’). We don’t use ‘into’, because the sentence is not about something being entered or changed.

Into or In To?

When using the words ‘in’ and ‘to’ next to one another, think about whether you’re using a phrasal verb. If the ‘in’ is part of the action, like with ‘drop in’, the ‘to’ should be separate. If not, then then ‘into’ is usually correct. Remember:

Into = Preposition indicating movement, action or change

In to = Part of a verb phrase

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