Two, Too or To? Too Tough to Remember?


I know my daughter will think this is all about her. And she’ll be right. I recently corrected her Facebook status because she used to when she should have used too. No big deal, really, but as I’ve written before, her dad gets held to pretty high standards on stuff like that. To her credit, she graciously corrected the status.

So, let’s address this common point of confusion. The core problem here is that these words are known as homophones–words that sound alike. But they are also heterographs, meaning they are spelled differently and have different meanings. So, we hear and pronounce them the same, but they have distinct spellings, and we have trouble keeping the spellings straight.

Actually, few of us have trouble with the word that names the number: two. So, let’s just get to the point of confusion: Do we use the one “o” to or the two “o” too?

To is used two different ways. It can be a preposition showing relationship as in:

I drove my grandma to Bingo.

In his will my uncle left his golf ball collection to me.

But to is also commonly followed by a verb to create what we call an infinitive:

I would like to examine your boots.

Samantha is reluctant to taste fried okra.

There’s another increasingly less common use of to as an adverb though. It’s used this way in expressions like “I pushed the door to (into a closed position),” “The patient came to (into a conscious state).” Those are unusual expression though, so let’s ignore them.

Too, on the other hand, is always used as an adverb. It can mean excessively, also, or beyond what is desirable:

His harmonica playing is too amazing for words.

I want to play the harmonica too.

Here are two simple ways to remember when you need the two “o” too. Too, in all its definitions means something like more or in addition. So, remember that when the word indicates more, you need more o’s.

Another way to remember is to replace the word mentally with very and also. If either one makes some kind of sense in the sentence, that means you are using it as an adverb, and you should use too, not to.

If the sentence is:  My oatmeal is ____ cold.  You could insert very and it makes sense. That means you need too.

If the sentence is: You can have a dish of oatmeal _____. You could insert also and it makes sense. You need too.

If  the sentence is: I have never been ___ Cleveland in the spring. You cannot insert either very or also. That means you can stick with to.

Personally, I like the first trick better. If something is too good, the too needs more o’s. That works for me. What works for you?

And I’d love to hear any opinions on Facebook grammar. It’s something I wonder about all the time. Should I bother correcting it at all? Does it worry you?


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Nikki

    I’m defiantly bothered by grammar mistakes of all kind, but I could never keep straight my too/to’s. So thank you very much!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko01-21-2013

      Are you defiantly bothered or definitely bothered? 🙂

      Not picking on you, Nikki, I’ve made that same typo myself. Just couldn’t resist. I’m learning to not be bothered. Working being patient, sympathetic, and occasionally amused.

      But I’m glad the article helped clarify the to/too’s for you!

  2. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko04-09-2011

    It bugs me too, obviously. But I keep wondering if it’s just because I’m old and don’t get it. I’ve come to accept that the abbreviations that are a part of texting are an almost vital part of the medium, and have accepted it, and even participated in it. Even the OED has accepted LOL and OMG, I’m told. But I just can’t seem to overlook something like getting your “to’s” confused.

    • Merri

      I agree, Brian. Every writing class I’ve taught includes serious lessons on ‘to-too-two,’ ‘they’re, there, their,’ ‘assure-ensure-insure,’ etc. Misuse does matter!

  3. joy

    Facebook grammar bugs the heck out of me. I especially hate it’s in the wrong place. Sometimes I say something, sometimes I just fume to myself. 😀

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