Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings are called “homophones.” And while it might be interesting that there’s even an actual term for those words, in reality, people are rather frustrated because it’s easy to fall into the trap of mixing them up. “To,” “too,” and “two” are such homophones, and since they serve their own purposes in a sentence, it’s time to explain why you need to look out for them.
“To” is a “preposition.” Prepositions are either a word or phrase that we use before a noun, pronoun, and noun phrase to show direction, location, time, or introduce an object. In some cases, as with the word “to,” prepositions are also used as infinitive verbs. Thus, it means that “to” becomes a part of the verb in a sentence.
- I tried to help her. (infinitive)
- We went to France last month. (showing direction)
- I lent my car to my brother. (receiving)
- It’s one week to Christmas. (until a time or state is reached)
- He was standing next to me. (position)
💡 When you’re still uncertain if you should choose “to” or “too,” think about whether what you want to say is about something being excessive or in addition to something. If it is, then choose “too,” if not, go with “to.”
“Too” is an adverb. Next to verbs and adjectives, adverbs are essential parts of meaningful sentences. You can read more about them here.
There are precisely two ways in which “too” is used as an adverb: to show that something is excessive or in addition to something.
“Too” as in “excessive”:
“Excessive” means that something is more than we need or want. It can also mean that something is more than suitable or enough. Here, we put “too” before the adjective.
- The car was too expensive for her. (it’s more than she can spend on a car)
- The weather was too cold to go for a swim in the lake. (it’s colder than what we preferred)
- He was too inexperienced for that job. (They wanted some with more experience)
- The test was too hard. (it was harder than what I could handle)
- She arrived too late for the concert so that they wouldn’t let her in anymore. (she surpassed the time limit in which they would’ve let her in)
“Too” as in “in addition” or “also”:
Every time you want to say something that could also mean “in addition,” “also,” and “as well,” you use “too.” It can also indicate an agreement.
Here, we usually put “too” at the very end of the sentence. As a side note, you can choose to add a comma before “too,” but it isn’t necessary.
- She put on a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, and a thick coat too.
- Pete hoped that his crush Vanessa would come to the party too.
- I think so too.
- “Nice to meet you.” – “Nice to meet you too.”
- She missed him too.
💡 If you’re not sure if you should use “too,” try to replace it with “also” or “as well.” Then, if the sentence still makes sense, you’re good to go with “too.”
💡 For people who just started learning English, it’s common to misinterpret the “excessive” way of “too.” They may think that they can use “too” interchangeably with “very” to say something positive. However, it’s precisely the opposite because in this specific case, “too” is only used to speak in a negative way about something.
Last but not least, there’s the last homophone to “too” and “to.” Most of the time, it is simply a typo when people write “two” instead of “too” or “to.” Why? Because “two” always means the number “2.”