How do I know when to use "to" or "too" in a sentence?
Published: September 15, 2011
Q: I am a little confused about when to use “to” or “too” in a sentence. Please explain.
A: These words look similar and sound alike, which is why they’re often misused. Once you know the difference, though, it’s easy enough to make the right choice each time.
“Too” is an adverb. It can be an intensifier, a word that adds emphasis. Sometimes it indicates excessiveness:
You plan too much.
It can also mean “very” or “also”:
She wasn’t too pleased with the results.
Linda wants to go to the park too.
“To” is more versatile. It is a preposition, a word that links a noun or pronoun to the rest of a sentence:
Take me to the airport.
She submitted her resignation to Mr. Fleiss yesterday.
“To” may also play a part in an infinitive, in which “to” is linked with a verb in its simplest form:
She’s learning how to draw.
He tried to hold her hand.
Once you have the rules for “too” figured out, you’ll use “to” for most other instances. Except, of course, when indicating a number, in which case you’d use “two.”
Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She
was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for
Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University,
University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a
visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
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