The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

Into vs. In To: How to Tell the Difference

This summer, I joined an outdoor rec volleyball league with some complete strangers from my church. Three months later, the season is over, which is kind of a bummer to me, because I love volleyball. I never played in high school or college, except for intramurals, but every summer at camp we’d play at least once, and as soon as I figured out the intramurals system in college, I was all in. Last summer I hung out with a group who would meet once a week during the summer and play pick-up until the sun started to set, and then this summer, I got semi-serious with the league. We’ve talked about continuing to play this fall too. Volleyball has just been a really easy sport for me to get into.

Get into? Get in to? Wait, which one is it?

Monks Playing Volleyball

Apparently, I’m not the only one getting in to volleyball. Or is it into? Photo by Sukanto Dabnath (Creative Commons)

There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding into and in to, but they’re used in two different circumstances.

Into Is Followed By a Noun

Into is a preposition that indicates that something is moving towards the inside of something. It’s almost always followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Kyle the basset hound got stuck while trying to sneak into the vegetable garden. Laura’s teenage cousin was relieved that she didn’t have to go into the principal’s office when she escorted her best friend there.

Into also works when you’re speaking abstractly. In the above example talking about volleyball, clearly no one is physically climbing inside the sport of volleyball. When people talk about music that they’re really into, they haven’t found a room made of noises that they’re in the process of taking shelter in. In this case, into is part of a verb phrase: “to be into”. This also occurs in the verb phrase “to look into”, meaning to investigate, and “to turn into”, which should only be used if you are Harry Potter and are capable of making your pet owl become a motorcycle sidecar.

In To Is Followed By a Verb

In to, on the other hand, is the preposition in followed by the word to, usually at the beginning of an infinitive verb (such as “to spike”) or as a new preposition. Chloe looked in to see what her brother’s pet ocelot was up to. Chester the cat stayed in to stay dry and out of the rain.

A good way to determine if you’re going to split the two is to consider in to as a three-word phrase: in order to. It doesn’t work all the time, but it’s a solid rule of thumb, and can help distinguish the difference between two robbers breaking into a safe, and two robbers breaking in to steal the President of Burundi’s rubies. The English language always keeps you on your toes.

PRACTICE

There’s a hole somewhere. Maybe it’s in the ground, maybe it’s in space, maybe it’s in a fence, but it’s there. Write for fifteen minutes about that hole, using into and in to properly as often as you can. Post your practice in the comments and leave some feedback for your fellow writers.

About Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. She occasionally blogs, but only when she feels like it. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure).

Don’t Waste Your Time

Take the Twitter Challenge Pack and market your writing
without sacrificing your writing time.

The 14-day course features:

  • 7 multi-media lessons on how to connect with readers, find new ones, build your platform, and sell more books on Twitter.
  • 100 new followers guaranteed. If you don’t get 100 new followers after fully participating in the course, your money back.
  • 47 fun challenges to get started fast and discover advanced tools for authors who want to grow their platforms quickly.

Learn More

  • wool.lover

    There was no reason why she should have looked into the back yard at the particular time that she did. When asked about it later all she could think to say for a reason was, “I wanted to check in to see what the baby was doing,” but after the fact, when she looked deep into her heart, she knew somebody or something had whispered into her ear. The baby was gone, that’s all there was to it, but what of those little foot prints, baby in size, leading of into the grass with another set of little footprints towards the old rock wall in a part of the overgrown yard which nobody had thought to look into? It had gone beyond the police now. Science was looking into the fact that the baby appears to have walked off into that hole with somebody or something else equally small in stature, though the baby was not of age to walk yet. She was being told now not to discuss the events of the disappearance, but she had to look for herself, regardless of the evidence carefully roped off into different sections of invstigation. Later, that night, she rose from her bed and stepped into the dark of the back yard, swinging a beam of light into the carefully marked places where the evidence of the baby having walked off into the unknown was still imprinted into the dirt. She was careful to step around what was important to the officials, as she made her way past the tape and ropes to the tangle of brush that grew deep into the back corner of the rock wall. Silently, barley daring to let the sound of her own breath escape into the the night air around her, she crouched low, aiming her light into the deep tangle amongst the roots and snarled vines close to the ground and there found a door, with a rusted lock no higher than the square opening of a coal chute in the side of an old house, only this door was not meant for the passage of coal or wood or inanimate object, but for the passage of something living, and miniature, with the dexterity to work a key and turn a knob on a door into the unknown. It was a discovery which even the dark hour of the night and her thin layer of clothing amidst the brambles could hold her back from looking into. Carefully, on her hands and knees, pushing her light before her, she entered into the mystery.

    • Jay Warner

      Great beginning! I would love to know where you’re going with this, it drew me in immediately. I did feel some of your sentences were awkwardly constructed, though. You might want to read this to yourself out loud and see if you can tighten up the sentence structure. For example, “…the carefully marked places where the evidence of the baby having walked off into the unknown was still imprinted…” could be rewritten as “the places where the baby had walked into the unknown, carefully marked evidence imprinted in the dirt.” I really hope you develop this exercise into a full-fledged story.

      • wool.lover

        Hey thank, Jay. I am very new to all this and appreciated your feedback. This is great idea for a site.

      • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

        Excellent critique. It is nice to see writers read so deeply into the works of others.

    • serenity8

      Nicely done. I agree with Jay on every point. This is an enticing story unfolding and editing will make it glide more effectively.

    • Journey

      Very descriptive story. You drew me in and painted the seen quite well. But near the end it felt like you were too focused on the details rather then moving the action of the story forward.

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      I love the mystery in the piece. I’m curious to see where this little door leads. Little child-napping goblins, or maybe a fairy land. Interestingly interesting. I agree with Jay though, clean it up, pack it up, and ship it to us in book form! ;)

  • serenity8

    Why did I do it? To fill the void; that black hole inside me that moves around, shape shifts, and is as mysterious as those out in deep space. Some people say I have charisma, but it’s just a magnetic emptiness that attracts those who cannot resist looking into the depths. They reach in to retrieve lost parts and I reach out seeking the charge of polar opposites who can bring something necessary into that chasm. That’s why I pulled over in the pitch darkness to pick up a stranger even though I never do that. As he leaned in to deposit his belongings in the back seat I could feel there was a velvet calmness about him. He smelled of spice. He looked into my eyes like someone who is a long lost relative that is inclined to love you without knowing anything about you. “I’ve been waiting for you to find me for a very long time,” he said.

    • Jay Warner

      Good use of “into” and “in to”, you’re right on the money. Your writing was enjoyable to read.

    • wool.lover

      Nice job, Serenity6. Your idea of the inner hole was great and worked well with the “in to” and” into” of the promt. Maybe you should continue this into a short story.

    • Journey

      Then what happen? I hope you get into writing more of this story at a later date.

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      I thought this was beautiful. I love how intricate you’ve made this metaphorical hole to the actions of the character. I really like the character, I hope the hitchhiker isn’t an ax murderer.

    • Jackie FP

      Now I’m nervous. Stories about picking up strangers make me nervous.
      But I just love the last sentence. It promises one great adventure I would want to read about!

  • Journey

    With the hungry glare of a child he stared into the vending machine. Of course, he was a hungry child his dad had only fed him fruit that morning. Seriously fruit? How was he supposed to get into a violent game of dodgeball on a stomach full of fruit. He needed sugar. He needed that violent surge of energy coursing through his veins.

    He reached into his pocket, pulling out his change. One, two, three, four quarters plopped their way into that machine. How he loved that noise, change piling into each other. He would hear that same noise, get that same rush when he would play his favorite arcade game, but this noise was different. This noise would end with a delicious chocolate treat finding its way into his mouth.

    C-5 he nervously punched into the vending machine buttons. How much trouble he would get into if his dad knew he was coating his breakfast with junk. But at that moment he didn’t care. All he wanted was that sweet satisfaction for breaking the rules.

    Invalid transaction. The vending machine said, blinking back at him. How is that possible? He always put enough change into his pocket just for these kinds of emergencies. He needed his treat. He needed, another quarter? When did they raise the price? When did, wait a minute, it had always been a dollar twenty-five. How could he be so stupid? How could he forget his fifth quarter?

    He reached back into his pocket finding nothing, but a hole. No! How is that possible? How did he not see it before? How did he? Where did he lose it? When did that fifth quarter fall out of his pocket and into the dark abyss?

    Maybe he lost it when he got on the bus. Maybe he lost it when he stopped into the art room to say hello to the class rat. Maybe he lost it before he even got up that morning. Maybe it was not even the hole’s fault. Maybe his dad found out about his dark obsession and decided to teach him a lesson. Maybe his dad cut the hole in his pocket to cover his tracks.

    Whatever it was, it didn’t matter anymore. He had to get to class. That piercing bell had been ringing into his head for over a minute now. He had to get into that classroom before he got into anymore trouble.

    Disgusted, with how his day had gone so far. He shoved his hands into his pockets heading off to class. There, there in his other pocket, was his fifth quarter.

    • The Striped Sweater

      Isn’t that always how it goes?

      • Journey

        yep. :)

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      Amazing. Simply amazing. I love how you’ve taken something so trivial as getting a treat from a vending machine, and turned it into this dramatic and climatic event!

      its spot on, too!

  • dgk

    There must have been a small undetected hole in the bottom of my purse. Who knows how long it had been there and when it got large enough for things to start falling out. But out they fell. First it was just some small change. Quarters, dimes, nickels that I use to put into parking meters all over town. As the hole got larger, other more important valuables escaped. Most importantly I lost my Brown Berry lipstick by Mac that I am totally into and that I have been savoring for months since it is no longer being made. Because it is so precious to me, I usually zip it into a little gold makeup bag. But when I put my hand in to grab it while driving yesterday I found the bag unzipped. There were other lipsticks and glosses still inside, but I knew without even looking that my precious Mac tube was not there. I checked into the bag while trying to keep my eyes on the road. I set it between my legs and rummaged. I then pulled everything out of my purse and wildly tossed things on my passenger seat. I turned it over and shook it hard, peering quickly in to see if there was anything left. Nothing. Empty. In the bottom corner was a frayed hole the size of a. . . a. . . a lipstick. Let the money disappear. I don’t care. But losing my favorite irreplaceable lip color? I’ll have to stay in to hide from my own reflection until a replacement color can be found.

    • The Striped Sweater

      Fun story. I think we can all relate.

    • Journey

      Oh no, not the lipstick. :(

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      No! Not my lipstick!
      CRASH!

  • The Striped Sweater

    Berg shook his head. “That wasn’t there this morning, Ruby.” Ruby the dog panted. Berg was nearly seven feet tall with shining, straight hair down to his hips. It was 5 pm, the sun was coming down, and the rings of his planet were starting to shimmer with reflected light. Berg was just waking up. He was still plugged into the wall. Literally. A cable ran from the wall into the base of his spine. He’d spent the day recharging–sleeping and recharging. Sleep came on him suddenly and irresistably since he’d been enhanced. Or rather, since he’d enhanced himself. He’d been warned not to try too many components at once, but he was a restless genius. And ambitious. Arctronix made the best visual enhancement unit, but Alien Hardware made the best memory and network interface components. He’d installed both, right into his skull.He’d read an old book somewhere about how it was good to lean in to your work, and it had inspired him to jump in with both feet. Unfortunately, his brain had disagreed–two barely compatible sensory/intelligence upgrades and a brain that could only handle one item at a time had left him with a few problems. He was undeterred. He’d moved to Ouroboros to sort himself out without the pressures of civilization. Here, he could sleep until five without the cacophony of the corporate network waking him at 4 am, 7 am, 3 pm… Really, it wasn’t that different. The corporations woke him at all hours back home on Gliese 581 g. Here, his restless mind woke him (or put him to sleep) at all hours. He didn’t care. He scratched Ruby’s head. Ruby licked his hand. He had a book in him, and he knew it. He’d come to this homestead like Thoreau to Walden Pond. Except he didn’t have a pond. Maybe he would now. Six feet from his door, the ground dropped away. The air smelled like burned metal. A meteorite the size of a VW bus had made landfall, blasted a hole in the ground the size of a football field. Fortunately, the claylike soil of Ouroboros didn’t lend itself to dust clouds. Otherwise, Berg wouldn’t have been able to breath. He made a mental note to upgrade his breathing apparatus as soon as he made some money. You can never be too careful.

    • Journey

      Very creative. Great job thinking out of the box. I have been having trouble writing inside of this world, I can’t imagine writing outside of it.

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      I feel like sometimes I need to move to another planet in order to concentrate…

      I like imagination in this piece and, especially as a writer, I identify with the character.

  • Victoria

    I put my finger into the hole, feeling cheated. When I had walked into the bakery for breakfast, the first thing I had discovered was that the price of the whole donuts was the same price as the donuts with holes. To top it all off, they were blatantly advertising the holes as a new item on the menu. A guy across the bakery popped a donut hole into his mouth without appearing to feel guilty in the least. I had a suspicion that if I had swiped it from him, it would have fit perfectly into the hole of my donut. My gaze slid to the next person. The same sight greeted me. All around me, holes were being sent to their doom at an alarming rate. Again, I poked my finger in to mourn the scam that I had been sucked into. How could I – of fairly average IQ – have been swindled out of a whole bite?

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      Oh!!!! The bakery down the street didn’t tell me they only charged per dozen if it doesn’t have any filled ones pretty much after I paid.

      It was an outrageous price!

      I loved this piece, but I felt much more need for violence!

      I had a suspicion that if I had swiped it from him, it would have fit perfectly into his eye socket!

      • Victoria

        Wow, that would’ve taken the story in a whole new direction. lol ;)

        • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

          Well, they couldn’t accuse of us being dull, now could they!

  • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

    When Kerrel stepped from the tunnel into the colossal chamber, his mouth dropped.

    “I told you it was big.” Grett smiled proudly. He had found it.

    The three teenagers stood upon the ledge overlooking a great chasm. It continued into indefinite blackness both upward and downward. The far side of the chasm was barely visible for the great hole’s wideness.

    “It must be miles long!” Kerrel estimated.

    Grett threw a fist-sized rock in to see how deep the chasm was. They heard it bounce off the far side of the chasm, but heard nothing more.

    Morria gazed about with wonder-struck eyes. “What could have made such a giant hole?!”

    “I’ve no idea… maybe a giant mole.” He threw another and larger rock into the hole.

    “That’s enough,” Morria said, “We can’t hear it hit the bottom.”

    “Yeah, but it’s fun to throw them in!” Grett heaved an even larger rock into the chasm with two hands.

    “You’re an idiot.” Morria added.

    Kerrel folded his arms across his chest. “He’s just trying to act cool.”

    They heard a loud rumble.

    “Was that the rock?” Morria asked.

    “No way!” Kerrel said.

    The ground began to trembled, first lightly, almost imperceptibly, and then violently. They threw themselves to the ground of the ledge overlooking the chasm.

    “Let’s get out of here!” Kerrel yelled over the loud rumbling with his arms over his head. “It sounds like it is going to collapse!”

    A scream echoed across the chasm.

    “Morria!” Grett dove to the side of the chasm. He found her holding to the side of a ledge just a few feet below. Kerrel slid in next to him to help.

    As Grett strained his arms to reach her, and Kerrel kept him from going over, he could see a dusty smoke emanating from somewhere below. A chill ran down his spine, and his swallow hung in his throat.

    Something was coming. Something big was coming.

    • Jackie FP

      I must say I’m intrigued!
      Love your names, by the way, Morria and all.

      • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

        Why thank you! I tried to pick out something different quickly.

    • Michael Marsh

      There’s a lot of potential “in to” and into in this one. Probably more into, though. Your transition to action is very effective. There is a lot happening, but it is all pretty clear.

  • Jackie FP

    Great. There’s a hole in my shoe. Not the regular type of hole, it takes the entire tip as if the god-damn shoe decided to become one pretty airy sandal. Right now, right in the process of convincing myself to open the crucial door. Why do I always get into situations like that? And I’m supposed to step into the office and do my interview without stumbling in my steps? The director will notice, it’s inevitable. And I’ll never get the job, and I’ll spend another year falling deeper into the pleasures of cowardice…

    Wait! Maybe it’s a sign. Maybe the shoe is giving in to stop me from doing that mistake. What if that hole is not only a hole? What if it’s a void representing the emptiness that I’ll feel if I trap myself into the routine of that unfulfilling job I’m about to step into?

    Okay, relax. It’s just a job interview. Get into that room and blow her mind with your awesomeness so radiantly that she’ll be forced to look into your amazingly shaped green eyes and nowhere else. Yes.

    I peek in to see what the woman’s shoes look like. Great, Jimmy Choo. I’m done.

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      I’m not a particular fan of job interviews. I can really identify with the character. I love the “OMG ITS THE END OF THE WORLD’ response to the hole in the shoe.

      It looks to be your first time at the write practice. So, let me be the first to welcome you to The Write Practice community. Lunch is at 12, bathroom is the second door on the left.

      • Jackie FP

        Very appreciated, thank you. :)

    • Victoria

      I love that last line :)

    • Michael Marsh

      Nicely voiced. The piece has a natural flow of thought.

      • Jackie FP

        Oh! That’s nice to hear, thank you.

  • Michael Marsh

    The hole was deep. It was definitely very deep and it was big enough to fall into. And, there it was in the middle of my backyard. It was the kind of hole you would expect aliens or some unwholesomely demonic creature of the underworld to creep out of when you were not looking. When I bent down
    to look in to get a closer look, felt a cool draft that carried a musty, dankness as of dungeons and oubliettes and long forgotten catacombs. Then I noticed that here and there the corners of stone steps emerged from ragged cloddy sides. Corners do not belong in nature unless people have been there to make them. I went to get a shovel and began to dig a little around the edge and uncovered a roughly cut slab of granite about the size of an ironing board.

    Maybe it’s an old tomb someone built on their land for family members. They
    used to do that, right?

    A little below that there were steep narrow steps. I uncovered 5 before I got nervous about bouncing down into the abyss without a light. Down at the fifth step I got the feeling that the drafts of dank air had a rhythm to them as if it was the mouth of an earth giant with granite steps for teeth. I scrambled out when that thought came into my head.

  • Map

    Wow, that would’ve taken the story in a whole new direction.

  • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

    Your examples of “in to” confuse me. Surely both call for “in to”, because the cat stayed in, and Chloe looked in. The in has nothing to do with the to. It is the verbs to look in and to stay in that are followed by a causal clause, telling us why they were doing it: in order to stay dry or in order to see.

    Applying your rule of thumb would either alter the semantics of the sentences: she looked in order to see (we loose the aspect that she’ld look in, probably from the outside). Or you have to use it differently by saying: she looked in in order to see.

    English allows you to express causality using infinitives, in that case: to see. Example: He went to see. No in. But it could well be expressed: he went in order to see.

    Could you elaborate a little more on this. I am not of English mother tongue and therefore might by totally wrong.