Nov 05, 2013
Grammar Hammer: Into the Great Wide Open
You know what’s been tripping me up as of late? When to use “in” versus “into.” I don’t know why this is suddenly so complicated to me, but that’s the beauty of having a weekly deadline where I can write about such things; it gives me an excuse to settle the spectacular arguments I have with myself on how something should be written.
In order to try and simplify the differences here, I’m going to break things down by function.
Easy: “In” refers to position.
Example: “My keys are always in my pocket.”
“Into” refers to movement that is happening.
Example: “I shoved the pile of dirty laundry into the closet before my mother arrived.”
Not as easy: “In” can be an adverb, preposition, noun, or adjective. “To” can be a preposition, an adverb, or part of an infinitive, so let’s consider function.
Motion or Direction
Example: “She walked into the store, swinging her purse wildly.” (Into is the preposition, showing which direction she was walking.)
Example: “My kitten, Pip, crashed into the bookcase during last night’s 3 a.m. racing spell.” (Into references movement)
I think this last part is where I get tripped up the most – when “in” or “to” are part of the verb. If I say, “We dove [in to/into] the pool as soon as we reached the hotel,” which should it be? Here’s the one thing I can remember – if the word “to” is being used as an infinitive, it should be kept separate from “in.” For example, “She came in to hear the beautiful music that was being played.”
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.