“Crash into me”—Dave Matthews
If only something had indeed crashed into Mr. Matthews back in 1996, we could have been spared more than fifteen years of aural desecration. Well, you know what they say about wishing in one hand and…uh, making brown in the other: one hand will surely fill up faster. Nevertheless, ol’ Dave did inadvertently touch upon an important grammatical issue, the all-too-common confounding of into with in to.
Into is a preposition with multiple definitions, but most of them indicate either a) direction and/or movement, b) something of interest, or c) change and/or the result of an action. Here is an example of each meaning:
a) The Secret Service agent let the nice Colombian lady into his hotel room.
b) As this archival video evidence attests, Paula Abdul is a little too into animals.
c) Kanye and Kim each hope to turn the other into more money.
On the other hand, when using the phrase in to, “in” acts as an adverb to modify the verb, and “to” functions as a preposition. “In” can also be part of a verb, as with “jump in” or “hand in.” consider this example:
Example: Jessica Simpson should turn herself in to the Fashion Police.
In this sentence, “turn in” is the verbal phrase and “to” is the preposition indicating the indirect object, the Fashion Police. Notice that the sentence does not say that Mrs. Lachey should transform herself into a member of fashion law enforcement; she should surrender to the authorities and hope she evades capital punishment for her sartorial crimes.
A Tip to Tell the Difference
The difference between into and in to is as distinct as that between Ashley and Mary Kate…well, maybe a little more so. When deciding between into and in to, use this strategy to determine which you should use: refer to the three definitions of into above, and take a moment to consider if “in” and “to” are functioning together as a preposition—or if they are working separately with other words in the sentence.
Stick with this plan, and the writing you turn in to Write.com will turn into success.