Confusing “too” and “to” is very common, but it’s never
to too late to learn which is correct. “Too” is an adverb; synonyms include “also”, “as well”, “overly” and “highly”. ‘To’ is a preposition with a variety of meanings and synonyms like “toward”, “till”, and “so that”. If you’re still confused, don’t worry. Even native speakers confuse these two little homophones (to be clear, “two” is also pronounced the same, but not many people confuse it with the other to two words.) So, we’re going to teach you what is the difference between “too” and “to” with examples in context. Let’s take a deeper look!
- Pronunciation of too vs to
- The different uses of too
- The many uses of to
- How to remember the difference between too and to with examples
Pronunciation of too vs to
At least the pronunciation is the same, right? Not so fast. We just said these words are homophones, and that is true up to a point. There is only one way to pronounce the adverb “too”: /tuː/, with a long oo sound. There are several ways to pronounce the preposition “to”: one is /tuː/, with the long oo sound just the same as “too”, but at other times it is pronounced /tə/, which rhymes with “uh”. More on this later.
The different uses of too
“Too” has fewer uses than “to”, so we’ll start here. There are two main uses of “too”:
- To say that something is more than necessary or to a higher degree.
- English grammar is far too complicated!
- You can never have too much money.
- There are too many people in here!
- To mean “as well”, “also”, or “in addition”. It’s often used at the end of a clause with this meaning.
- Are you all going to the movies? Can I come too?
- We recently adopted a dog, and then we decided we might as well adopt a cat too.
If “too” appears in the middle of a sentence, it should have a comma both before and after it.
- I, too, am disappointed that we’re not going.
We use a comma before “too” when it comes at the end of a sentence if there is an “abrupt change of thought”.
- I always cry at funerals, but I often laugh out of awkwardness, too.
You will also see “too” in many other phrases. One of the most common ones is “you too”, as a response to someone else.
“Have a great night!”
Native speakers use “too” for emphasis in place of “very”, for example, “You are too crazy!” Lastly, you’ll see “too” in the abbreviation TMI, which is short for “too much information”.
The many uses of to
There are far too(!) many uses of the preposition “to” for us to mention all of them here, but we’ll cover some of the most common ones.
- To indicate direction, placement, or motion
- We’re going to Spain.
- The bathroom is to the left.
- Walk to the end of the road.
- To indicate the limit of a range or time period
- I like a lot of different cuisines, from Mexican to Indian.
- You need to reheat the dish for 3 to 4 minutes.
- To indicate an object or a recipient
- Give the money to me and walk away.
- I sent the email to the whole department.
Now back to pronunciation. “To” is often pronounced /tə/ with the schwa sound in connected speech. We call this the weak form. Instead of pronouncing it with the long vowel (oo), we pronounce it with a short sound (uh) when we are not emphasizing it – this is most of the time.
How to remember the difference between too and to
You’ve seen lots of examples of the differences between “too” and “to”, but how can you apply all of this to your own writing? By making substitutions to check. When you write a sentence, try to replace the word “too” or “to” with the words “very”, “also”, or “overly”. If you can do this, you should write “too”. If you can’t, it’s “to”. Here are a few examples:
It’s too [overly] windy to go for a walk right now. 🗹
That jacket belongs to [very/also] me! 🗵
Ellen’s driving to [very/also] Germany today. 🗵
I’m going to make some extra, so we’ll have dinner for tomorrow too [also]. 🗹
Is this too difficult to remember?
Of course not! Remember that the adverb “too” means more than needed and as well, while the preposition “to” means… well, everything else we said! It can express directions and the limits of ranges, and indicate objects and recipients of an action. Use the replacement technique to check your own writing and to make sure these tricky little homonyms don’t trip you up.
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves traveling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.