Tamsin Constable

‘Into’ or ‘in to’?

Someone’s just asked me whether to use ‘into’ or ‘in to’. My instinct (into) was right, but I couldn’t explain why (and now you know I’m not perfect).

Of course I had to justify myself my ignorance by saying that it probably doesn’t matter, followed by a shrug. Then I left the room, by way of indicating that I had much more important things to do than waste my time on such pedantry.

Then I sloped off to find out, and here’s my freshly minted opinion on the matter.

You’ll be safe with into most of the time. The reason, I discovered, is because into expresses motion, direction, a change of state.

The swan waddled into the river.
He flew into a jealous rage.
The water froze into a slab of ice.

Here’s when to use in to instead: when the in part goes with the verb.

In I turned my gun in to a policeman, the ‘in’ belongs with the concept of ‘turning in’. If I wrote I turned my gun into a policeman, it would mean that my knife had become a policeman.

What about I stuck my knife into a pig?

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