Into is one of those tricky English prepositions that seems straightforward at first, but becomes more complicated when you look into it. Into is a preposition, which means it shows a relationship between two words in a sentence—typically pronouns and nouns. Below we’ll help you understand which definition of into to use, and when to use into versus in to.
What part of speech is into?
Into is a preposition in the English language that has multiple meanings. Three of the most common uses of into are: to show movement toward the inside or interior of something, to show a transformation or change, and to show a deep engagement with a topic.
To show movement toward the inside of something:
- She walked into the room.
- The cat jumped into the box.
- They went into the lake.
A good test for whether or not you want to use into in this way is to see if you can replace the verb + into with entered and generate the same meaning.
- She walked into the room. = She entered the room.
- The cat jumped into the box. = The cat entered the box.
- They went into the lake. = They entered the lake.
That test doesn’t always work. Here are some examples of using into to show a changing location (but substituting the word entered won’t work):
- The company invested a lot of money into research and development.
- The artist poured her emotions into her paintings.
- He put a lot of effort into his presentation.
In these examples, the “thing” moving from one place to another is more conceptual—money, emotions, and effort.
To show a transformation or change:
- The caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.
- The water turned into ice.
- The yellow leaves indicated that summer was turning into fall.
- The dam converted water into energy.
- The book was adapted into a movie.
To show a deep engagement with a topic:
- She got into surfing during their beach vacation.
- The scientist was so into his research that he didn’t notice the rain.
- Once their basketball team started winning, the fans got really into supporting it.
One of the most confusing parts about the word into is that it sounds exactly like the two words in to. So how can you tell the difference?
The short answer: Into is a preposition, so it will always show a relationship between two words. In to is a verb phrase, so it will show movement.
An illuminating usage is with the verb to turn. When someone or something turns into, that means they are changing form—a direct relationship between one thing and another. For example: The frog turned into a prince. When someone or something turns in to, it means they are changing direction or showing movement. For example: The driver turned in to the parking lot.
One way to test for the difference is to see if using into creates an unusual transformation.
She turned her book in to the library. (The library book was returned.)
She turned her book into the library. (The library book became an entire library.)
The better you understand how to use prepositions, the easier this difference will become.
Other uses for into
Like most prepositions, the meaning of into will change depending on the context of the sentence. Some other meanings of the word into are:
Combination: To describe the act of mixing different elements or substances.
The recipe required mixing the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients separately, and then pouring the wet mixture into the dry mixture at the last minute.
Understanding: To indicate a deep understanding or analysis of a subject.
In order to write a thorough review of The Great Gatsby, she first had to dig into the historical context of the novel.
More examples of into in a sentence
The squirrel darted into its burrow as the hawk flew overhead.
He’s really into photography, so he wakes up before sunrise just to get the right lighting.
The watermelon slices froze into refreshing popsicles after a couple of hours in the freezer.
She blended the yellow and green paints into the perfect shade.
She channeled her energy into raising funds for the charity event.
The researchers conducted experiments to gain insight into the behavior of atoms.
The play’s script was translated into multiple languages for international audiences.
The small nonprofits merged into a single community organization in order to draw on one another’s resources and expertise.
What part of speech is into?
Into is a preposition. Prepositions tell us where or when something is in relation to something else.
What does into mean?
Into can be used to show the relationship between two words based on a change in location or a transformation. It can also be used to show a deep investment in something (for example, he was really into playing soccer), or a deep understanding about something (for example, the historian delved into the archives).
What’s the difference between into and in to?
Into is a preposition, so it will always show a relationship between two words. In to is a verb phrase, so it shows movement.