Thursday, March 25

English teacher: how to use to and too

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.)

As always, thank you for visiting me here at Imparting Grace!


  1. I have a question regarding the correct use of "..." (ellipses?). I'm sure I consistently use them incorrectly.

    My grammar pet peeve? A LOT. Two words, people.

    Thank you for today's lesson!

  2. Hi Richella, I have a question is there a difference between 'in to' and 'into'?

  3. I have a gazillion pet peeves about grammar: there, their and they're, were and we're, and poor spelling (I could go on and on!). I see a lot of it on blogs, and I fear that "texting" and "IMing" will put a new twist on our language and grammar rules - whadda u think - hahaha

  4. My question involves the words a lot. Is it one word or two? I think it's two... a lot!

  5. What a fun giveaway! I just love the English teacher series! My question is about the use of "..."
    For some reason, I use them a lot on my blog; however, I don't know if I use right.

    Did I use the ";" right?

  6. Thank you for the English lessons. I am looking forward to them each week. My pet peeve is the when the words a lot are put together as alot. My sixth grade teacher was a nun and one day went ballistic pounding the chalkboard to remind us how to use these words. Every time I see someone write "alot" I think of that moment. Ha! Maybe you could explain quotation marks. I don't think I've ever grasped the correct way to use them. I would love to win that key bookmark. I absolutely love keys. Blessings!

  7. Please don't laugh, but I am going to ask something that is perhaps a little bit stupid. What are these {} for?? (brackets) I just think they're pretty, so I use 'em. ;) I think if my university sees this comment, they will come and revoke my diploma!!!

  8. I think the age of text messaging has deteriorated grammar even further! Those kids can shorten every word and forget about punctuation...sigh...

    My pet peeve is the "there" "their" circus. It's like nails on a blackboard to me.

    ps.(I was super self conscious typing this! Oh my gosh, don't make a grammatical mistake!)

  9. I would love to win the bookmark! My pet peeve is when people say, "I seen..."

  10. I always get confused on when to use lay or lie. :) Help!

  11. I love all the comments before me and some of their questions are mine as well. My pet peeve is when someone chooses th wrong one of these two words. AFFECT/EFFECT.

    Have a wonderful day.

  12. Richella, I know that I use ellipses way too much! It's like writing the way I talk, kind of trailing off into the next thought! I hope it's not too offensive. And yes, I am one of those who wants TO ask "may I have TWO cookies, TOO???" :D
    Great post!


  13. I just found your blog. How fun that you're providing these little tips! Although I think I have a reasonable grasp of proper grammar, I tend to doubt myself when using punctuation and quotations. For example:
    She said, "I have an idea!" and ran to her room.
    Is that punctuated correctly?

    Lamb’s Most Recent Post: Woman’s Day Magazine No Longer Irks Me!

  14. Oooh, I just thought of another possible topic for you! How the heck are you supposed to use semicolons?


  15. I agree with Lisa. I tend to use "..." often but have no idea what the rule is. I just like them!

    Grammar pet peeve?
    were, where, wear, ware
    their, there, they're

  16. PLEASE give me a refresher on proper apostrophe use.

    I absolutely adore that bookmark and have been looking for a pretty one since I've recently forced myself to make time simply for reading (as a multi-tasker, this is killing me, but I will get back into reading, I swear!!).

  17. When people are talking about themselves and someone else, should they say "Deb and I", or "Deb and me" (using my own name)? I was taught to use "me". but I see it the other way so much these days. pet misspelled words!!

  18. My biggest pet peeve is the improper use of me when you really mean I.

  19. I completely overuse the !!!! in my posts. I know, but can't seem to help it anyway! :)

    My peeve comes from when people write "wa-laa" instead of "voila". It's French. It bugs me. Now I've said it and I feel better!


  20. I just discovered your blog, and, as a fellow English teacher, I love this post! My grammar pet peeve is the mix-up between apostrophes and plurals.

  21. Thanks for the lesson. I always remember that to use "too" means saying also.

    I don't think I have any pet peeves as far as blogging. Sometimes I write as if I was talking to someone both in my post and in comments. I know that at times it's not proper grammar, but just a more natural way to communicate. But I don't feel like I'm being graded or judged (at least I hope not) so it doesn't really matter to me.

    In the real world I have all kinds of grammar things that irk me!


  22. I see a lot of it on blogs, and I fear that "texting" and "IMing" will put a new twist on our language and grammar rules -
    free internet jobs

  23. Richella,

    I love your grammar posts! Grammar mistakes (in print or video) make me want to scream! Some of them are more understandable than others - it *is* hard to keep track of when to use "lay" and when to use "lie". Others, well, not so much.

    Would you please do me (and the blogging world!) a favor and write a post about how to use apostophes correctly? As in "they-are-for-contractions-and-possesives-only-and-absolutely-not-for-plurals"???

    Besides the misuse of "your" and "you're" (remember the scene from Friends when Ross and Rachel are breaking up?), the misuse of apostrophes in written language drives me up a wall!

    The other thing that so many people get wrong is when to use "so-and-so and I". They think they have to use it *all* the time instead of just when it is the subject of a sentence.

    If you can reach even one blogger, you will be my hero (heroine!)

  24. I have just found your blog. Love the grammer lessons, I need all the help I can get. My grammar pet peeve? Typing in caps!! ugh!

  25. To this day I still have issues with when to use the words, lying down, or laying down properly in a sentence. Even with the maiden name of "English" I have never been good at grammar.

  26. I second the lay or lie? Also into and alot?
    The you're and the your is a pet peeve of mine. I would love to hear anything you see when you are reading blogs that bug you. Love that you are doing a giveaway with this!

  27. Please conjugate the word, "wake." As in, he wakes up; he is waking up; he woke up; he has...woken???...waked???...up. I HATE that I don't know the past participle form!

  28. One of my pet peeves: the use of anyways. It drives me crazy! The word is ANYWAY--it's not plural! Which reminds me of another pet peeve: the misuse of the apostrophe. I hate when people add it when they are trying to make a word plural. Now that I've critiqued this comment over and over to be certain everything is proper, I'll just quit and hit publish.

  29. Imparting Grace --- I love your blog.Today is my first visit, as I am a regular at Reluctant Entertainer. My grammar pet peeve is people using texting abbrevations.

  30. Pretty bookmark!
    I got a kick out of reading the commenters' pet peeves. Mine is the use of an apostrophe with the intention of making a word plural.
    I will say that I am much more lax with grammar and all that on my blog. I will, for example, use "kinda" instead of "kind of", because that's the way it sounds coming out of my mouth, and I want my blog to feel conversational.

    I'm a little worried that I made a mistake in this comment!

  31. Every person in the blogosphere should be required to read this series. I'm so glad you're doing it. I guess I have to admit to being a grammar snob, although I write my blog in a more conversational style. Although it's more of a spelling issue, the misuse of then and than seems to be rampant in blogland.

  32. I have so many peeves about grammar that it is not funny! I am a junior high reading teacher. One that pops in my head is when people say " onced & twiced instead of once and twice! OMG!!! Drives me crazy!!!!
    Anyway...I would love to win this set for use in my classroom! Thanks!!! Glad I found your blog! I am going to follow it for sure!!!

  33. First, I have to say I love your posts. I love grammar - have as long as I can remember. To lighten up my red pen reputation at work I am somewhat-jokingly referred to as "The Grammar Police." Unfortunately, I have several pet peeves but my biggest is probably the over-use of the word "that." Far too often I am removing it from sentences when someone has used it two, three even four times. It drives me nuts. Off to post about your series. Great idea!

  34. I know - it has been a few days but I blogged about this anyway. Post is here:

    Thanks again for the posts! Can't wait to read the next installment.

  35. Love to know when to use a colon and when to use a semicolon. I also need clarification on the use of "effective" and "affective."

  36. It looks like I am not the only with the lay vs. lie grammar question. My mother still corrects me when I use the two words incorrectly.

    My grammar pet peeve? The incorrect placement of apostrophes, particularly with the word it.

  37. Gerunds! Oh please explain gerunds!

  38. I am so happy to see that you are writing this series! Sometimes I feel OCD because poor grammar on the internet bugs me so much. :-)

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people spell words wrong in their YouTube videos. It bugs the fire out of me!!! In fact, I have rejected several of them (even though I loved the song or the way the video was put together), all because they misspelled one word. Is that OCD? Am I asking too much out of people? I don't think so but I could be wrong.... :-)

  39. I love the key bookmark. I would appreciate a lesson on when to use a semi comma (;). I would also like some clarification on if a comma is needed after the word just before and. (dogs, cats, and rabbits OR dogs, cats and rabbits)
    Thank you for the giveaway and the lessons.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I read every one; they make my day. If you have a specific question, please be sure your email address is attached to your profile or leave your email address in the comment; I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Every blessing!