To vs. Too vs. Two – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 2, 2017/ Uncategorized

to versus too versus two

What’s the Difference Between To, Too, and Two?

To, too, and two are all homophones, which means that they sound exactly the same but have different spellings and definitions.

The primary use of to is as a preposition that shows motion towards a point. In other words, it is the opposite of from. There are multiple other definitions that will appear in more detail below.

  • The turtle and the rabbit raced to the finish line.

Too is an adverb that means also or overly.

  • If my sister gets ice cream I should get ice cream too. It’s only fair.

Two is a noun or adjective that is the number between one and three.

  • The soccer player scored two goals in the last minutes of the game.

Now, let’s go over a few ways to use these words in English.

Using To in a Sentence

When to use to: To is usually a preposition, but it can also be an adverb. It has many definitions. These include towards, until, and with intention.

To is also part of the verb in its infinitive form. There are many more uses that are similar to those already mentioned, or that are less common.

For example,

  • The lioness moved to her prey. (first definition)
  • The workers must work from noon to six o’clock. (second definition)
  • He bought a gun to rob the store. (third definition)
  • The dog likes to run. (fourth definition)

There are many idioms that use to:

  • to a certain extent: somewhat
    • It’s true to a certain extent that the President embezzled, but he used the money to help the poor people of the country, which was part of his job.
  • to and fro: from one place to another, often with a backwards and forwards movement
    • The man had drunk too much wine and he staggered to and fro along the sidewalk. .
  • from time to time: occasionally
    • I don’t go dancing often, but I do dance from time to time.

There are many more in which to plays only a minor role in the overall meaning of the expression that aren’t included above.

Using Too in a Sentence

When to use too: Too is an adverb that describes something that is excessive. It can also mean also.

For example,

  • I feel sick because I ate too much popcorn. (first definition)
  • Don’t run too much on your bad knee or you’ll injure yourself. (first definition)
  • I want some cake too! (second definition)

There are also many idioms and expressions that use too:

  • not a moment too soon: right before it would be too late
    • Thank goodness the police got here before the man shot anyone! They arrived not a moment too soon.
  • too many cooks in the kitchen: so many people working on a single project that they are unable to function well
    • Why do you have ten people working on this simple poster? You should have been done hours ago. This is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. You two finish the poster and the rest of you go work on something else.
  • too long; didn’t read: The text was too long so one didn’t read it
    • “Too long; didn’t read” is often abbreviated as tl;dr and introduces a short summary of the text for those who don’t want to read the whole thing.
  • not too shabby: not bad
    • Is that a new dress? Not too shabby!
  • to spread oneself too thin: to do more work than one can handle
    • You can’t work extra hours. You’re already working 60 hour weeks. You’ll spread yourself too thin.

Too has a negative connotation, so don’t use it when you want to express something positive. For example, I had so much fun at the party means you had a good time. I had too much fun at the party could imply you drank so much that you got sick, or did something else you regret.

Using Two in a Sentence

When to use two: Two can be an adjective or a noun. It refers to the number after one and before three.

For example,

  • I have two cats. (adjective)
  • One plus one equals two. (noun)

There are also many idioms and expressions that use two, some of which are below:

  • to be eating for two: a pregnant woman is eating for herself and her fetus
    • Here, have some more food. You’re eating for two!
  • to go number two: to defecate
    • Mommy, I have to go number two.
  • two faced: duplicitous
    • She seems nice at first, but don’t trust her. She’s very two-faced.
  • two peas in a pod: two people who are very similar
    • The best friends are like two peas in a pod. They do everything together, like the same things, and even look alike!
  • the lesser of two evils: the better of two bad choices
    • I don’t like either of the candidates running for president, but I’ll vote for the incumbent because she’s the lesser of two evils.

In its written form, two can be spelled out or written as the symbol 2.

Remembering To vs. Too vs. Two

There are a few different ways to remember the distinctions between these three words.

Let’s start with how to remember the word to. Many prepositions, especially the most common, have only two letters. This includes in, on, at, of, and by.

Prepositions usually show how two elements of a sentence relate to one another, especially through time or location. If this is too hard to remember, you can also remember that to and towards share the same first two letters, and have the same meaning in many contexts.

To remember the word too, think of its two closest synonyms: also and overly. When placed side by side, also overly, you can see the double oo like in the word too.

Finally, it can help to think of the word twenty to remember that there is a w in both the numbers twenty and two. Alternatively, you could remember that two is spelled with w, which is pronounced as double u, and double means 2.

Outside Examples

  • Once the sun begins to reappear, the AAO says to immediately return the glasses to watch the remaining phase of the eclipse. –Chicago Tribune
  • Things were great until a few months later, when snow began to fall and no one wanted to stop for music. So she took her act to a Times Square subway platform. –New York Post
  • “We definitely have to win,” Jones said. “It’s just too big of a deficit with three races to go. I think the pressure is on, but we’ve been handling the pressure really well.” –USA Today
  • “God’s Problem Child” is too finely made — and often too funny — to suggest that Nelson has finally run out of steam. –LA Times
  • Joshua Wong, the face of huge street demonstrations in 2014 for freer elections of Hong Kong’s leader, was sentenced to six months in prison. Two fellow protest leaders, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, were given eight and seven months, respectively. –New York Times
  • Tucker and his wife Heidi had been been married for one year, but had not yet been on their honeymoon. So the California couple set out on a two-week trip to Europe to celebrate their marriage.–LA Times

Quiz: Too vs. To vs. Two

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, too or to or two, in the correct form.

  • I need _______ guitars because I need an electric one and an acoustic one.
  • I’m going _____ travel to China next year!
  • I have _______ many books. I’ll never be able to pack all of them for the move.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use to, too, or two? These words have similar spellings and the same pronunciation. However, there is no overlap between their definitions.

  • To has many meanings but usually is a preposition meaning towards or until, or part of an infinitive verb.
  • Too can mean either also or describe an excessive amount of something.
  • Two refers to the number after one.

Make sure you know which of the three words has which meaning.


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