to vs. too vs. two

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

These three words give writers a lot of trouble because they all have the exact same pronunciation: /tu/. However, each has a very specific meaning and usage, so it’s important to understand the distinction between them.
To is most often a preposition; it has a broad range of meanings and uses, but it usually means “in a direction towards” or “reaching.” For example:
  • “We’re going to Florida for our vacation.”
  • “The oil spill spread all the way back to the shore.”
Too is an adverb most often meaning “in addition; also; as well; furthermore.” It is also used as an intensifier, meaning “excessively or more than is useful, usual, fitting, or desirable,” or “very; extremely.” For example:
  • “I think we should invite Dan, too; he’d really enjoy it.”
  • “The pizza was a bit too hot to eat right away.”
  • “He’d be only too happy to help you out.”
Two is primarily a noun meaning “the cardinal number that is the sum of one plus one,” “a set of this many people or things,” or “something representing or represented by two units.” Two is also commonly used as a determiner (a type of word similar to an adjective that introduces and provides information about a noun), meaning “amounting to two.” For example:
  • “I only needed one, but I bought two because they were on sale.”
  • “I just needed to get another two and I would have had a full house.”
  • “We only have two hours to get this done.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

There are few mnemonic tricks we can use to help determine which spelling is correct:
  • To is most similar in meaning to the word toward; we simply cut off the -ward and we’re left with to.
  • Too most often means “in addition to,” so we have a second O in addition to the first one.
  • Two is spelled with a W (said aloud as “double U”), and the word double means “two.”
More functionally, remember that to will almost always be followed by a noun (to form a prepositional phrase); too will always be describing a verb, adjective, or other adverb; and two will always describe or function as a noun.
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