To, too, or two? What word should I use?

“I gave two papers to Sammy, too.” All of these little words sound the same, even though their spellings and meanings are different! Words like these are called homophones. How can you tell which one to choose?

Set Your Target: To

To, too, and two are responsible for some of the most common mistakes, but they each belong in different contexts. The first of these, to, is actually a preposition. This little word connects ideas, explaining the target of the sentence.

I told my secret to my sister.
I planned a trip to Jeju.
From winter to summer, nature is so pretty.

In each of these sentences, the tiny word to connects the larger ideas around it or gives more detail. In the first, you told the secret to whom? To your sister. You planned a trip where? To Jeju. When is it pretty? From winter to summer. In each case, to marks the target.

You can remember when to use to by thinking that if you want to explain something precisely, it’s best to set a small, precise target (and to is the smallest of the homophones).

Too much to handle!

In the era of SNS, too looks as though the person typing it added those extra “o’s” just for effect. Just like someone might type, “nooooo!” if they want to express their drama in text, they might also type, “that boring play was tooooo long” to exaggerate how much they disliked it. This can actually work as a memory trick to help you remember the meaning of too.

Too indicates that there is too much or an excessive amount of something.

There was too much mayonnaise on my sandwich.
I have way too much homework.
Tell Jayne that hat is just too stylish.

Imagine the spelling carries the writer’s tone of exaggeration in each of these cases and it should be easy to remember that too is the word you want. Similar to this idea of excess, too can also indicate adding someone or something else as well. In fact, you should be able to substitute as well into any sentence that correctly uses too.

Bring your notebook too!
I’ll invite Simon and Kaylee…and Zoey too!
There was lots of good food too.

In each case, too indicates that the item it follows is being added to what is described. If you tell someone to bring their notebook too, it is implied that they were already bringing other things. Likewise, you can see from the second example that Zoey is being added as an afterthought to another list (Simon and Kaylee).

So, in short, too is about having a lot or adding even more! (“A looooot — too much!” lol)

Number Words: Two

The last one, two, is simply a number. It’s exactly equivalent to the numerical version: 2 = two. If you tell yourself that writing numbers is worthwhile work maybe you can remember that the w belongs with the number version of these homophones.

Or you can use something ridiculous, since that sometimes sticks in the memory better. Perhaps, “two twin whales wished for water twice.” You can also see from this example how the “tw” letter pattern is found in other words involving the idea of doubles as well.

Practice Time!

Choose (a) to, (b) too, or (c) two for each sentence below. Check your answers at the end of the page.

  1. Please send a letter ___ your mother.
  2. There are only ___ cookies left!
  3. If you feel ___ tired, stop and take a break.
  4. Don’t forget to offer a drink to Ben ___.
  5. Let’s go ___ the beach!
  6. I called her ___ times already.
  7. There are ___ many options to just guess.
  8. Would you ask him ___ come over here?
  9. This day is just ___ hot.
  10. I need ___ pencils to prepare for the test.

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Answers: 1.a, 2.c, 3.b, 4.b, 5.a, 6.c, 7.b, 8.a, 9.b, 10.c

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