To, too, and two are homophones and have been known to cause English speakers confusion.
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but have a different meaning and spelling. In the English language to, too and two often get mixed up, as evidenced by President Trump’s official inauguration portrait offered by the Library of Congress*.
We thought it was high time we helped clear the air.
When to Use ‘To’
To has two uses. It can be used as a preposition. When to is used as a preposition, it will come before a noun. For example,
“Yesterday, I walked to the store.”
“She took a trip to Seattle.”
“This pen belongs to Maria.”
To can also be used as an infinitive before a verb. For example,
“To be or not to be.”
“I love to play quizzes on Sporcle.”
“I like to eat oranges.”
When to Use ‘Too’
Too also has two uses. The first use is as a synonym for ‘also’ or ‘as well’. For example,
“My little brother will go to the dance too.”
“I’d like to buy the donut and the milk too.”
A good test to see if you are using too properly is to try and replace it with the word also.
Too can also be used as an adverb to show excessiveness. For example,
“I had too many donuts for dinner.”
“You have definitely gone too far.”
“Too little, too late.”
When to Use ‘Two’
This one is pretty simple. Use two to spell out the number 2. For example,
“Two is a number that comes before three.”
“They rode a bicycle built for two.”
Typically when someone uses to in place of too or vice-versa, it’s just a typo or an error made in haste. But for those that do get to, too, and two confused on an on-going basis, this simple technique might help:
Too = also or in excess
Two = the number
To = everything else
*Note: The Library of Congress has removed the item, noted that the marketing materials for the poster came from a third party vendor and the Library regrets not catching the mistake.
Derek Pharr is Vice President of Products at Sporcle and an occasional writer of random topics and bad jokes. He also has an odd addiction to Taylor Swift songs and hates white foods.