It's Thursday, so it's time for the next installment in my English teacher series! If you missed the introduction to this series, click here to read it. I'm hopeful that these little grammar lessons will prove helpful to you.
Today I'll explain the proper usage of three tiny but important words: to, too, and two. As I've traveled around the blogosphere, I've noticed that many people have trouble with these little words. I think that's because these three words are homonyms--they're pronounced alike, so they all sound the same, but they have different meanings. Of course, homonyms give us no trouble when we're speaking. Since they all sound alike, someone listening to us just hears the word and decides on the right meaning in the context of the sentence. When we're writing, though, it's up to us to choose which word is correct.
To is a preposition that indicates direction, such as in these sentences:
I'm going to pick up the kids from school.
Natalie, give this to your sister.
Can you show me how to do this?
Too is an adverb that means also, extra, or very.
I want to go, too!
There's too much icing on your cupcake.
She's not too happy with the paint job.
Two is a number. This word is derived from the Old English twa. The word twain is also derived from twa.
May I have two cookies?
There's a simple way to remember which to/too/two word to use: To is your go-to word; you'll use it a lot. Too is the word to use if you mean also or extra; that's easy to remember because it has an extra o. And two is the funny-looking word of the group, just as the numeral 2 is a rather funny-looking figure.
One of the reasons that writers sometimes have problems with these words is that SpellCheck won't catch them. To, too, and two are all legitimate words, so they won't register as misspelled words. It's up to the writer to choose the right word.
That was a simple little lesson. Now I'll get to the heart of this post, which is something I really care about. . . and the giveaway!
When I teach grammar to young people, I always start by explaining that language is a gift from God for the purpose of communication. Learning grammar is not important in and of itself; it's important only as a tool to help us communicate. The study of grammar was never intended to be dull or tiresome. But the study of grammar just for the sake of learning about grammar would be worse than dull and tiresome--it would be a waste of precious time.
The fact is, we all have a story to tell. And in this online age, our means of communication is writing. When we write, our goal is not to have perfect grammar. Our goal is to communicate effectively! Grammar is simply a key to being able to communicate in writing. It's a key that allows us to say what we mean to say. It's a key that helps us avoid being misunderstood. And in honor of those facts, I'd like to give away this key bookmark
to one of you. Please leave a comment asking a grammar question you'd like for me to answer, suggesting a point of grammar you'd like for me explain, or even pointing out a grammatical pet peeve of yours. I'll randomly choose a winner from among the commenters. (If you're viewing this in a reader or reading it as an email, click on the title of the post to get to my blog so that you can leave a comment.) Then I'll use those questions and suggestions for future posts. I'll leave the giveaway open until next Wednesday night, then I'll announce a winner next Thursday. If you'd like to mention my grammar lessons on your blog, please do--I'd love to spread the word. Then come back and leave another comment, and you'll be entered in the giveaway a second time. (This giveaway is now closed.)