To vs. Too

Riley Thompson Manning

The word “to” has too many uses to count, but “too” only has one.

Ugh, confusing, right? While other usage mistakes might be forgiven by a trained eye, using the wrong to/too is an egregious error.

Luckily, each one is fairly one dimensional, meaning each can only play one type of role in the sentence. “To” and “too” sound the same, but they have completely different meanings. Their functions in a sentence couldn’t be more different.

When to use “Too”

“Too” is an adverb meaning “excessively,” “also,” or “additionally.” It has an extra “o” added to it, so you can use this to remember its meaning.

  • This curry is too spicy for my taste.
  • Kelly wanted to go to the candy store, too.
  • Ron, too, missed the tenth question on his history test.

In the first sentence, the spice is excessive. There is more of it than the speaker would like. In sentence two, Kelly either wants to go to the candy store in addition to other people who are going, or she wants to go to the candy store in addition to other stores. In the third sentence, Ron also missed the question, along with several other classmates.

When deploying “too” in a sentence where it means “additionally,” be sure to set it off with commas.

When to use “To”

“To” is a preposition loosely meaning “toward.” It shows a directional or locational relationship between two things.

  • From three o’clock to five o’clock, I practice my piano.
  • James carries Kelly’s books to class for her.
  • Terry’s car is the one with the spoiler attached to the back.

In sentence one, “to” marks the span between the two hours. In the second sentence, “to” shows where James is carrying Kelly’s books. In sentence three, “to” shows where Terry’s spoiler is attached.

“To” can also be used with a verb to construct an infinitive. In fact, an infinitive consists of the word “to” followed by any verb. The entire infinitive functions as a noun.

  • Mark loves to run on his lunch break.
  • Mom needs to figure out what she’ll cook for dinner.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question.

In the first sentence, “to run” is the object of the verb “loves” It functions as a noun, since Mark is not actually running in the sentence. In the second sentence, “to figure” is the object of “needs,” answering the question of what Mom needs. In sentence three, “to be” answers what the speaker’s question is. Each instance is the object of “is.”

Pop Quiz

Try these practice sentences. Hopefully, they aren’t too hard for you by now.

  1. Jane agreed that Layla gets angry (too, to) easily.
  2. I don’t want (too, to) go (too, to) the dance, but I don’t want (too, to) stay home, either.
  3. He can’t wait (too, to) get out of school for the summer.
  4. After Kyle’s speech, there wasn’t (too, to) much left (too, to) say on the subject.
  5. I, (too, to), wish that I could go on vacation this month.
  6. The video game proved (too, to) difficult (too, to) beat, so James went swimming instead.
  7. She is applying (too, to) Harvard, Michigan State, and Duke University, (too, to).
  8. Missy has started saving money (too, to) buy a new vehicle next year.
  9. Sweep the kitchen floor, and don’t forget (too, to) clean your room, (too, to).
  10. It takes around 30 months for a baby cow (too, to) reach its full size.

Answers: 1. too, 2. to, to, to, 3. to, 4. too, to 5. too, 6. too, to, 7. to, too, 8. to, 9. to, too, 10. to