To vs. too

To is a versatile preposition. A few of its many definitions are (1) toward, (2) reaching as far as, and (3) until.1 Too is an adverb meaning (1) additionally, (2) excessively, (3) very, or (4) extremely.2 Whenever you’re in doubt about whether to use to or too, see if any of those synonyms of too (i.e., additionally, extremely, etc.) would work in its place. If none fits, then to is probably the word you’re looking for.

Usually when someone uses to in place of too or vice-versa, it is simply a typo or an error made in a careless moment, so let’s not be too hard on people who occasionally mix them up. None of us is immune to such mistakes. When the mixup is habitual, however, it is a problem. Most people who speak English as a first language master the distinction in primary school, so the mixup can make one look either poorly educated or like a very unpracticed writer, which can be devastating when it comes to college applications or job-application cover letters.

Examples

To

I am going to bed.

She turned to him and said hello.

The dictator was restored to power.

He pressed his face to the glass.

We stood face to face.

There were two men to every woman.

It’s now ten minutes to six.

I came to return this book.

When I came to, I had blood on my hand and everyone was looking at me.

I pushed the door to and shut off the lights.

Too

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The sun was too bright, so I put on my shades.

The error was too glaring to ignore.

She wasn’t too pleased to see us again.

You will too clean your room!

I miss you, too.

References

1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/to ^
2. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/too ^

Comments

  1. I’d like to go to two tourist attractions too.

  2. I’d add the synonym ‘also’.
    I’d like to go too/I’d like to go also.

    One way I think people could distinguish them is to think about whether they would exaggerate the ‘oo’ if they were making a complaint, such as “it’s toooo far” or “it hurts tooo much”

  3. justsayin says:

    Like how you left it out in the last sentence.

  4. Ghostrider939 says:

    You will too clean your room should be included in American idiomatic English because I have yet to see that in the ‘Real English’ world.

  5. I may be wrong, but I believe that a good way to explain it is that “too” is an amount, and “to” is an action or direction. Some people may understand that easier.

  6. Actually, it’s “Eat you cake and have it too.” because once you eat it you can no longer have it. One can have it and then eat it, but not the other way around. It’s similar to the saying “You can’t put the cart before the horse.”

  7. VitaAmare says:

    What would be the proper use of “to” in this sentence. When you say “I didn’t mean to”. Is it one “o” or two?

  8. English is a messed up language, I’m lucky it’s not my first, too. :P

  9. “None of us is immune” is … None of us “is” -> is

  10. dr.noname says:

    This is too confusing.

  11. to, too, two

  12. cameron nelson says:

    I missed learning this in forth grade. I remember getting pink eye and being out for a week, five years later here I am finally knowing for sure the difference.

  13. Gina LaJander says:

    I must admit, I have been using an incorrect ‘to’ for a VERY long time. I was using ‘to’ in place of also, as in, “I want to go to the mall to.” Instead of, “I want to go to the Mall too.” Still a bit confused and I was an English Minor!

  14. I’m confused about this example:

    You will too clean your room!

    Which of the synonyms apply?

    You will {also} clean your room?
    You will {additionally} extremely?
    You will {excessively} clean your room?
    You will {very} clean your room?
    You will {extremely} clean your room?

  15. Rachael Alexander says:

    What about ” I will have to check to see if I’m available. “

  16. “When I came to, I had blood on my hand and everyone was looking at me.” – who added this as an example

  17. There is no way to correctly write the sentence there are three 2s in the english language.

  18. Shadow Infinite says:

    I would like to point out that he made a mistake, being “None of us is immune to such mistakes.”, and it’s supposed to be “None of us are immune to such mistakes.”. How ironic.

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