To, Too, and Two: How to Choose the Right Word

To, too, and two.

ThoughtCo 

The words to, too, and two are homophones: They sound alike but have different meanings. The preposition to refers to a place, direction, or position. The particle to is used before the verb in a to-infinitive. The adverb too means also, very, extremely, or additionally.

Two refers to the number 2. It's probably the easiest one to remember, even though it doesn't look like it should rhyme with to and too. It can be confusing for new English speakers.

Key Takeaways: To, Too, and Two

  • Words that sound alike but are spelled differently are called homophones.
  • To is a preposition or part of a verb infinitive.
  • Too means also.
  • You can tell which word you need by substituting also. If it makes sense in the sentence, too is the form you need.

How to Use To

To is a preposition or part of a verb infinitive. For example,

  • I went to the store to buy groceries.

The first usage is a preposition. It starts a prepositional phrase explaining where I went. The second usage is part of the verb to buy.

How to Use Too

Too means also. For example,

  • Did you want to come with us too?
  • That new shirt you bought is too cute for words!

The first to is part of the verb to come, as illustrated above. The too in the first example means also, additionally, or as well. In the second example, it means very or extremely.

How to Remember the Difference

The to/too mistake is one of the most common homophone errors in written English, as many people get stuck deciding between them (even native English speakers struggle with it). One easy trick to remember: If you mean to say too as in additionally, very, or also, remember that that word has more Os than to. Think of the extra O as meaning a little extra or additional. 

To differentiate too from to, look at the sentence without it, and even read it out loud to better engage your ear. Does it still make sense as a sentence? Examine this example:

  • "She's such a copycat," Sondra lamented. "Because I went to the store to stand in line for the new phone, she did, too."

You can take off the too, and it's still an understandable, readable sentence. If you remove either to, there are problems. You wouldn't say "Because I went the store..." or "Because I went to the store stand..." When you read it out loud, your ear detects a dropped word, even if your eye skips over it. You need the preposition to in order to show where you went, and the infinitive verb needs its to as well. (It needs its to, too!) 

Examples of To, Too, and Two

Here are a few more examples:

  • We determined that we two had celebrated a little too much, and so we decided to call a cab to come and take us to her parents' house to recover.
  • "Guy was moving into Mensa Sarba Hall. I had seen his room in the dormitory, and it looked too small and too dark, but he loved it. For the first time in his life, he was going to live alone, away from my persistent commands. Responsible to himself and for himself." (Maya Angelou, "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes," Random House, 1986)
  • "We had to go out to a restaurant to eat because she didn't feel anything like cooking. The two of us and her mouthy teenage son opened some presents, and then we went to this steakhouse near her apartment. I wasn't hungry. I had some soup and a hot roll. I drank a bottle of wine with the soup. She drank some wine, too." (Raymond Carver, "Where I'm Calling From." Cathedral. Random House, 1983)
  • The game was almost too exciting in the last two minutes of play.

Idiom Alerts for To, Too, and Two

Being such widely used words, they appear in idiomatic expressions in English. Here are a few:

  • Too little, too late is an expression meaning that even though help (for example) arrived, it wasn't enough and it wasn't timely enough to make a difference in the effort to recover. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and Mississippi, President George W. Bush was criticized about the delay of the response. It was seen as too little, too late.
  • Two of a kind and two peas in a pod are expressions noting how two people (for example) are alike.
  • Having two left feet refers to someone who isn't a good dancer or who is clumsy.
  • If you say you have too many irons in the fire, are spread too thin, or have too much on your plate, it means that you have too many concurrent projects or demands on your time currently or at once. Likewise, if you're wearing too many hats, you're trying to take on too many roles at the same time or do too many jobs at once.
  • If you are in too deep, you are overwhelmed, have more than you can handle, or you know more than you should about a situation and can't get out of it easily.
  • If you want to have your cake and eat it too, you want to do two things that are opposite. You want to both possess the cake and consume it. 
  • To and fro means to move from one place to another or back and forth.
  • If something is too rich for your blood, it's too expensive for you or too much for you to handle.
  • If there are too many cooks (or chefs) in the kitchen, there are too many people trying to control one project or have input into something. Similarly, too many cooks spoil the broth (or stew).
  • Having too much of a good thing signals that you're overindulging in something or there's just too much of something, even though it's not bad on its own. For example, a few holiday lights on the outside of a home can look lovely in their calm simplicity. Some people, though, can't seem to stop decorating and put up 100,000 strobing lights, which neighbors might joke can make the house visible from space. On a small house and lot, they're likely exhibiting too much of a good thing.

Practice Exercises for To, Too and Two

  1. I have wanted _____ visit Boise for years.
  2. I have always been _____ busy _____ go.
  3. Next week I am driving _____ Atlanta, and you may come _____.
  4. I'll be gone ___ Hawaii for _____ weeks.
  5. The ___ of us can go ___ the charity auction.
  6. The little girl said ___ her brother, "Is Mom talking ___ herself?"
  7. That ___-pound hamburger is ___ much for even ___ people ___ eat!

Answers to Practice Exercises for To, Too and Two

  1. I have wanted to visit Boise for years.
  2. I have always been too busy to go.
  3. Next week I am driving to Atlanta, and you may come too.
  4. I'll be gone to Hawaii for two weeks.
  5. The two of us can go to the charity auction.
  6. The little girl said to her brother, "Is Mom talking to herself?"
  7. That two-pound hamburger is too much for even two people to eat!