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Log in vs. login

Login, spelled as one word, is only a noun or an adjective. For example, the information you use to sign into your email is your login (noun), and the page where you sign in is the login page (adjective). Log in is two words when it functions as a verb. For example, you log in with your login information.

There is much precedent for the distinction. Many two-word phrasal verbs have one-word equivalents that function as nouns and adjectives—for example, check up and checkup, pay back and payback, and run away and runaway. In these cases and the many others like them, the one-word forms never become verbs, and there is no good reason to make an exception for login.

Some spell the one-word form with a hyphen—log-in—especially in the U.S. This will likely change, though influential publications such as the New York Times have so far resisted going along with the rest of the world (including most Americans) on the spelling of tech terms (see also the Times’s use of Internet, Web site, and e-mail where most people in the English-speaking world use internet, website, and email.)

Examples

Login (noun and adjective]


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At the moment the login is through Facebook, but the company plans to change that and to release an Android app. [News24]

The firm sent out a “large number” of emails this morning requiring members to change their login details. [Telegraph]

In this case, the devices are more secure, since no data is stored on the device and access will require a secure account login. [New Zealand Herald]

Log in (verb)

Users log in and are presented with a selection of plays, concerts and other events for that night only. [Wall Street Journal]

And customers can log in themselves to view all orders, invoices and payments in real time. [Guardian]

In other words, it provides a secure way for employees to log in and access all the applications. [Forbes]

Hyphenated

 These editions come with faster processors and separate log-in accounts so multiple children can share the same device. [New York Times]

[P]references in the Modern layout were automatically saved and transferred to multiple machines with a single log-in. [Denver Post]

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Comments

  1. Your work is wonderful and incredibly useful, but I am troubled by the second sentence of this entry: “the act of signing into your email is login (noun).” Wouldn’t the “act of” signify a verb? I believe the distinction you were aiming to make is that “login” as a noun is the field of entry or the information used in order to log in to your email account. No?

    • Grammarist says:

      Perhaps we should change that sentence. “Login” has at least a couple of definitions, correct? It refers to the information you use to log in to something, as you point out, but it also refers to an instance of logging in—e.g., my last login to my email was five minutes ago. But this second sense is probably less common, so we should probably use the first sense in our example—maybe this: “For example, the information you use to sign in to your email is your login (noun), and the page where you sign in is the login page (adjective).”

      Also, thanks for alerting us to the fact that we had used “signing into” where we should have used “signing in to.”

      • chickenfog says:

        Much better. I found the original sentence jarring (the act is a noun, whaaa?).

        Keep up the good work!

        • Adam Jagosz says:

          imho, ‘the act’ is a noun, as the is an article found only before nouns…
          Plus, I suppose “the act of …” doesn’t mean the same as “the verb expressing the act of …”

      • I appreciate the info provided here, as I’ve wondered about which form to use in which situation. As someone who works for an organisation that develops authentication software, it sounds a little strange to me to say “the information you use to sign into your email is your login (noun).” Personally, I would use “login credentials” or something similar, but I’m not saying the use of “login” as a noun is incorrect.

  2. You wrote “pay pack” instead of “pay back”.

  3. Great article, but: I don’t think ‘login’ in ‘login page’ is an adjective. It is a noun. And ‘login page’ is a noun cluster or NP cluster (some people even call them noun composites). One could claim that it is an adjective in these simple noun + noun phrases (and some dictionaries for general public do this to keep things simple), but once you look at more complicated cases, this view breaks down.

    Yes, ‘login’ is in a position commonly occupied by an adjective (preceding a noun), but that’s the only commonality. Compare “syntactic error” and “syntax error”. Both “syntactic” and “syntax” are attributes of “error” but “syntactic” is an adjective, “syntax” is a regular noun. “login page” is like “syntax error”.

    The noun can sometimes be in plural: ‘my logins page’ (page where I keep all my logins). If ‘login’ were an adjective, what would ‘logins’ be? English adjectives do not form plural.

    The nouns can be repeated (login page – 2 nouns, login page translation – 3 nouns, login page translation error – 4 nouns). If one claimed that “login” is an adjective in “login page”, one would have to claim that “login page” is an adjectival phrase in “login page translation” but a noun phrase in “This is my login page”.

    It does not have to be a bare noun that works as an attribute of another noun, it can be a whole noun phrase (but without a determiner):

    “International Global Navigation Satellite Systems Service” – the structure is “International [Global Navigation Satellite Systems] Service” the noun “Service” is modified by the adjective “International” and by the noun phrase “Global Navigation Satellite Systems” (note that Systems is in plural) .

    Some of these clusters can be quite complex:

    “United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services” Administration”. The structure is “[ [United States] [Department of Health and Human Services] ] [ [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services] Administration]”. One should probably avoid these in a well written text or a speech, but neverthless they are part of English and they are used by English speakers.

    In short, in English, nouns can modify nouns, and “login” in “login page” is one of them.

    • Grammarist says:

      But words can be both nouns and adjectives. An adjective is a word that modifies a noun by describing it, limiting it, or qualifying or quantifying it. In “login page,” “login” tells us what kind of page we’re talking about–i.e., it describes, or qualifies, “page”–so it is certainly an adjective.

  4. Grammarist, I hope you’re still around because I want to know what you make of this — on a Web site where a new customer is to “register” and they are frequently asked to either “LOGIN or REGISTER” I believe that for consistency it should be “LOG IN or REGISTER” so that they are both imperatives. Good vibes?

  5. John Moore says:

    You can use both and be correct. Computer terms are variable, just spell them correctly and move along.

  6. You shouldn’t even have to ask. If you think “login to the web site” looks okay then you lack a firm grasp of the English language. If you really need rules to figure out what should be common sense then think of it this way: is the past tense “I loginned to the web site”? No, I LOGGED IN because “log” and “in” are obviously two separate words.

  7. I would argue that “sign into your email” is wrong. Shouldn’t your second sentence say “sign in to your email”?

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