Understanding the difference between to and too

by paperpal
Difference between to and too

Homophones tend to trip writers more than fascinate them – ensure and insure, though and although, advise and advice – the list of confusing words is endless. These are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. But this doesn’t give one the excuse to use these incorrectly. When used incorrectly they could change the intended meaning, which is a big no-no in academic writing. Let’s take one such pair of words today that are confused far too often – ‘too and to’ in academic writing. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between to and too and find out how to use them correctly through the various to vs too examples provided.  

What’s the difference between to and too?

Too is an adverb that can be used to replace words such as “additionally”, “excessively”, “as well” or “also”1. To, as opposed to too, is a versatile word that can be used in various contexts. It is mainly used to indicate a direction and is similar to “toward” and “until”2

While to can act as an adverb or a preposition, too only acts as an adverb. For example:

  • He’s going to the movies too.
  • He likes to read, but he likes to swim too.
  • She ate too many chocolates on Christmas Eve.
  • That blouse is too colorful for my taste.

When to use too vs to

Here is a detailed explanation and some to vs too examples to help you understand the usage of each word.

When to use to

The word to can be used in several ways:

  1. To can be used as an alternative to toward where it works as a preposition that expresses direction. 

For example:

  • I’m moving to a new house next month.
  • Let’s go to the cafe for coffee and bread. 
  • You can also use to as preposition that shows contact toward another item, person, or place.

For example:

  • Can you stick this picture to the wall?
  • My eyes were glued to you.
  • To can also be used to indicate a recipient.

For example:

  • She passed the book to her.
  • Mary gave the gift to Jade. 
  • Another usage of to is when you want to show range.

For example:

  • My toddler can finally count from 1 to 5.
  • I work at the restaurant from 9 AM to 8 PM.

When to use too

The word too can be used in one of two ways:

  1. When the usage of too signifies an addition or add-on.

For example:

  • I’m joining the gym, too.
  • Orlando hates pizzas and French fries too.

Note: It’s up to you whether you want to add a comma before too while using the word in your writingWhile writing a formal or technical piece, it’s advisable to add a comma. You can ignore it during casual or colloquial conversations.

  • Too also conveys an excess of something.

For example:

  • Lea’s laptop is too slow for her to work on it.
  • It gets too cold in the evening, so I have to wear gloves.

How to remember the difference between to and too

A fun little trick to remember the difference between to and too is that too has one more “o” than to. So, if you’re trying to refer to too much of something or an excess of something, remember to add a second “o.”

References

  1. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/too
  2. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/to

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