The difference between ‘too, to’ and ‘two’

(Correct use of the English homophones ‘too, to, two’)

Table of contents – difference ‘two, to, too’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Difference ‘to, two, too’
  2. Use of ‘to’
  3. Use of ‘too’
  4. Use of ‘two’
  5. Further explanations and exercises

What is the difference between ‘to, two’ and ‘too’?

The three words to, too, and two are very similar in their pronunciation and, as a consequence, often cause problems when writing. In terms of meaning, however, they are very different and cannot replace each other under any circumstances. They all belong to different parts of speech (word categories).

A principle to keep in mind is the following way of speaking:

  • to → cannot be emphasized.
  • too → is usually emphasized.
  • two → can be emphasized for accentuation.

Note the following explanations in detail.

How to use ‘to’?

The word ‘to’ can fulfil two different functions. Compare:

  • On the one hand, ‘to’ can be used as a preposition. Then, it mostly indicates a direction or a place. Examples of places are:
    • to the centre
    • to Norway
    • to a bank
  • On the other hand, ‘to’ serves as an identifier or a marker for the infinitive (the base form) of the verb. Basically, there is no further meaning behind it. Examples of infinitives are:
    • to see
    • to know
    • to think

Example sentences

  to’ with infinitive to’ as a preposition
correct: “My friend wants to buy a new car.” “We’re flying to Rome next week.”
correct: “I’m happy to see you!” “Have you ever been to Scotland?”
incorrect: “Are you ready too go home?” “Are you going too the library?”

How to use ‘too’?

On the contrary, there are three cases for the adverb ‘too’. In principle for all three cases, ‘too’ never precedes verbs. Note the following:

  • By using ‘too’ you can show that something is ‘too much’, which means that it exists or is available in excess. It is most commonly combined with adjectives or other adverbs and is never placed directly at the end of a sentence:
    • too small
      • In this example, it appears together with an adjective.
    • too slowly
      • too’ refers to an adverb here.
  • There is a further possibility in the sense of ‘also’ or ‘as well’, which bear similar meanings. In this case, it usually appears at the end of the sentence:
    • this one too?
    • me too
  • In addition, there is a somewhat special usage. It sometimes helps when speaking in order to soften a (mostly negated) statement. As a synonym for ‘too’ in this meaning, ‘very’ may be used:
    • not too good
      • corresponds to: not very good
    • not too helpful
      • corresponds to: not very helpful

Example sentences

  too’ for excess too’ for ‘also’ or ‘as well’ too’ for toning down
correct: “That jacket was too expensive.” “Can I have that too?” “The film wasn’t too interesting.”
correct: “We arrived there too soon.” “This is a good idea too.” “The task is not too easy.”
incorrect: “Did Jenny come to late again?” “I’m a student to.” “There weren’t to many people.”

How to use ‘two’?

The word ‘two’ is merely used for the basic or cardinal number and means ‘two’ (2). Then, it stands before nouns or at least refers to one:

  • “We have two cars.”
    • The number ‘two’ appears directly in front of ‘cars’ as a noun here.
  • “There are two old trees in the garden.”
    • In this case, there is another adjective between ‘two’ and the noun ‘trees’.
  • The following sentences are wrong:
    • “You saw to birds.”
    • “He bought too apples.”

Further explanations relating to the ‘Difference between ‘to, too’ and ‘two’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Difference and correct use of ‘to, two’, and ‘too’’ and could be interesting as well: