The difference between: ON and ONTO and ON TO. The difference between IN and INTO

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When to use:   On or Onto or On to

On is used to indicate location or position on a surface.

Onto indicates the movement of something from a particular position or location to another.

On to, as two words, are used when on is a part of a phrasal verb.

Prepositions are an integral part of the English language. They show the relationship between other words in a sentence. Though most prepositions express very specific ideas, many of them are close in their meaning and spelling. These overlaps often confuse writers, leading to incorrect word choices.

Ononto and on to are three such confusing prepositions that are used interchangeably by many, but they do not exactly mean the same!

So what is the difference between these three words? How do they change the meaning of the sentence? And most importantly, which preposition should be used where? We will answer all these questions today and help you get them right in your writing.


On is used to indicate location or position on a surface.

I have left the file on your desk.

Apollo 11 was the first spaceflight to land humans on the Moon.


Onto indicates the movement of something from a particular position or location to another. The object was not present at the location initially but has now moved there.

They climbed onto the roof to gaze at the starry sky.

Why don’t we step onto the dance floor?

On to

On to, as two words, are used when on is a part of a phrasal verb. Phrasal verbs, are a group of two or three words that form a semantic unit which functions as a verb. When used as a part of a phrasal verb, on does not indicate a location.

Please log on to your computers.

You must hold on to your dream, no matter how challenging it gets.

On, onto and on to – What is the difference?

As discussed above, on tells you that an object is present at a particular location, while onto describes the movement of the object towards a particular location. To understand the difference better, let us use both these prepositions in the same sentence and see how they change its meaning.

Susan strolled on the bridge with her dog.

Here we understand that Susan is already present on the bridge and is just enjoying a leisurely walking her pet. Now let us replace on with onto.

Susan strolled onto the bridge with her dog.

This sentence shows that Susan was not present on the bridge initially. She was at some other position and moved towards the bridge. So the movement from one location to another is specified by the preposition onto.

On the other hand, on to must be used when on constitutes a phrasal verb and to is following it as a preposition for connecting the sentencing with the object.

Here’s a hack

  1. When you want to tell the location or position of an object, use on.
  2. The ‘to’ present in onto can be remembered as ‘towards’. So, when you are talking about the movement of an object to/towards a particular location, use onto.
  3. If on is a part of a phrasal verb, use on to.

When to use IN or INTO

The words, in and into are quite similar in their meaning, but their difference lies in the fact that ‘into’ is used when someone or something moves to another location which is an enclosed one. Conversely, ‘in’ is used when something is already in a resting position in an enclosed space.

The main difference between in and into is that the preposition in indicates the position of something while the preposition into indicates an action or movement.

In and into are both prepositions in the English Language. However similar they appear, these words have differences that are very important to remember when you are writing. Furthermore, in, in addition to preposition, can also act as a noun, adverb, or an adjective while into can only act as a preposition.

What Does In Mean

In basically means ‘expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.’

In is primarily a preposition but it also acts as an adverb, adjective and even as a noun accordingly. Consider the given example sentences:

In as a Preposition

The hamster is finally in its cage. (indicating inside or interior of something)

She said her son is in the ICU unit of the hospital

Mark was a leading vocalist in the band Westlife before it got split up. (indicating a part of something)

My parents have met each other in the late 1980s (indicating a time period)

He said he would call me back in ten minutes (indicating an amount of time)

My sister adores using watercolour in her drawings (indicating a means or manner of something)

In as an Adverb

The residents confirmed that they never heard the burglar come in. (Indicating movement)

He locked me in a dark room as the punishment. (Indicating the situation of being enclosed)

In spite of the delay, the bus managed to get in at the proposed time. (Indicating arrival)

In as an Adjective

I won’t be in on Mondays. (Indicating of  being present at one’s home or office)

Carol said this cardigan is the in thing these days. (Informal manner to indicate something fashionable and trending)

In as a Noun

In is used as a noun to indicate a position of influence with someone powerful or famous. For example,

Everyone knew that he had an in with the new artist.

Therefore, In has varied applications according to its grammatical categories.

What Does Into Mean

Into can only act as a preposition, unlike in. The meaning of into is ‘expressing movement or action with the result that someone or something becomes enclosed or surrounded by something else’ or ‘expressing movement or action with the result that someone or something makes physical contact with something else.’ However, into has other meanings as well.

Refer the given example sentences,

Ryan got into the van just now. 

Peel the fruits and throw the peels into the dustbin.

He changed the language of his PC into Spanish.

Take the first narrow road you encounter; that will lead you into the village.



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