Why do these three little words cause so much confusion for writers? Most likely because they sound the same, and so writers think that these words are interchangeable. Unfortunately that is not the case as these words have their own distinct meanings.
When words sound the same but have different meanings they are called homophones. These three words all sound the same but look different. So let’s have a look at these differences between two, too and to:
Two – the number 2. Other words that signify the number 2 generally start with or include the letters tw, e.g. twenty, twins, twice, between.
Too – also, as well, in excess, excessively. Too is an adverb (modifies a verb).
To – everything else that the first two don’t apply to. To usually begins a prepositional phrase or an infinitive (because it’s a preposition).
To make it a little easier to see and hear the differences, let’s look at the examples below:
- He held two cards in his hand.
- He drank too much alcohol that night.
- He went to the bathroom many times that night.
With the first sentence ask yourself ‘how many cards,’ and see if a number is needed. With the second sentence ask yourself ‘how much alcohol,’ and if you can replace it with ‘excess alcohol,’ you most likely need the word too. And with the last sentence ask yourself if either a number or a reference to ‘also/excess’ is needed—if not, you need to.
Kristy Taylor is a syndicated freelance journalist with articles and short stories strewn across all forms of media. She has written and published numerous books, and is the executive editor of KT Publishing, which encompasses several web sites. For free listings of short story competitions visit http://www.shortstorycompetitions.com
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