Karen from the Lake District gets confused over into/in to and onto/on to. She writes: I never know whether to write ‘into’ or ‘in to’ and I note that you use ‘in to’ and ‘on to’ a lot. Could you explain to me when they should be joined together and when they shouldn’t be please?
Many people interchange them, but they have quite distinct uses. ‘Into’ and ‘in to’ are different. Basically ‘into’ is a preposition and will form part of a prepositional phrase. With ‘in to’, ‘in’ is an adverb and ‘to’ is a preposition. But there are some easy ways to work out how to use them without needing to think about the grammar.
‘Into’ is used to indicate movement, action or change.
When it melts, ice turns into water. (Change)
I am going into the shop to buy some chocolate. (Movement)
He charged into the scrum. (Action)
‘In to’ can be thought of as meaning ‘in order to’.
She went in to see if her father was there. (She went in [in order to] see if her father was there.)
When in and to are used as separate words, they should not be combined as one word
He turned his car in to the road. (If he turned his car into the road he’d be a magician.)
‘Onto’ and ‘on to’ work in a similar way, except that there are many instances where both could be used and would be correct, depending on context. You need to stop and think about what it is you wish to say.
She cycled onto the pavement. (She reached the pavement and continued cycling.)
She cycled on to the pavement. (She stopped cycling when she reached the pavement.)
‘On to’ should be used when ‘on’ is considered to be part of the verb.
For example: to move on to pastures new (to go somewhere new)
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