Thursday, January 13, 2011

English teacher: how to use to and too

It's Thursday, and time for another lesson from the English teacher!

Today I'll explain the proper usage of two tiny but important words: to and too. Lately I've noticed that many people--even really smart people who are good writers--have trouble with these little words. Like many words in the English language that present problems, these two words are homonyms. 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 leaving now to pick up Mary from her piano lesson.
Lee, give this to your brother.
Can you teach me how to use this word correctly?

Too is an adverb that means also, extra, or very.

I want to go, too!
There's too much ice on the tree branches.
I'm afraid we'll have a power outage before too long.
He's not too happy with his new job.
That is too funny for words.

There's a simple way to remember which to/too 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.

One of the reasons that writers sometimes have problems with these words is that spell checkers won't catch them. To and too are both legitimate words, so they won't register as misspelled words. It's up to the writer to choose the right word.

Remember this rule:

If you mean to say "also," "extra," or "very much," use the word with the extra "o"!

**Note: There is a third homonym of to and too: the number two. This one doesn't usually cause too much confusion, though.**

Please let me know if you have any specific grammar questions! I'll be very happy to help you if I can.


Jemsmom said...

That is brilliant! I taught 4th grade for a couple of years and this was one of my pet peeves in writing!! Thank you for sharing!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Yes, that's a good one!! I'm always curious about making last names plural/possessive when they already end with "s"

1. That is the Willis' dog...OR That is the Willises' dog.
2. The Jones Family...OR...the Jone's Family

My old boss used to do it one particular way that I was pretty sure was wrong, and it drove me CRAZY. After 5 or 6 years of working with her, she wouldn't fix it!!!

Crystal said...

I always enjoy reading your English teacher Thursday posts. I would like to know more about the proper use of "if I were" and "if I was."

Southern Lady said...

Great lesson! Carla

Dawn said...

you are the most beautiful, fun english teacher i ever had :) does it bug you that i type comments with no capitals?

Carmen @ Life with Sprinkles on Top said...

I could be the English teacher's assistant. :) Thanks for posting this one too!!!! It's another pet peeve of mine. Someday, can you address the apostrophe issue? Like when people add apostrophes in for no reason. Example: Look how many car's are on the freeway.

Paula said...

What a great lesson! One of these days you might have enough posts to use for a book!

FrouFrouBritches said...

I'm trying to drill this one into my 8 year old.

I have a question/pet peeve. My friend says, "Have you ate yet?" I keep correcting him with "Have you EATEN yet?" Whose right?

the speers said...

I love this series! It helps me remember why I love English so much and that we should always, always, always use correct grammar! Do you think you could do a post on 'a lot' and not 'alot'--it drives me batty to see it on so many blogs!

thanks! (and I love your blog, too!)

Shannon said...

Thank you so much for doing English teacher Thursdays. I am hoping to see one soon on the use of through, threw and thru. Is thru even a word? I think I have it mastered but would love to know for sure.

I also have trouble with plural/possessive when the name ends in "s" as Amanda does.

You're such a great help!!

hugmom said...

I'm a new subscriber to your blog. The grammar question I have is, when do I use "it's" and when do I use "its?"
I've already given up on the proper use of "good" vs. "well!"
Is there any hope for my english speaking abilities? I is a college graduate! :)

hugmom said...

So right after I posted my comment/question I scrolled down a few more posts (Google sends me the latest 10 posts when I subscribe) and there's my answer! It's amazing! (I used that correctly, right?) :)
Thank you, I'm feeling smarter already!

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