Oct 22, 2014

Pet peeves of a grammar nerd: On to/Onto

From MorgueFile, by Natureworks

Hello, fellow grammar nerds!

Today, I want to talk about On to, and Onto.
Because, you see, they are not the same. The two not interchangeable.
They are two different animals completely, and the jungle needs them both.

To decide which one to use, ask yourself:

AM I actually putting/walking onto something? Like, "I walked onto the terrace." Or, "He threw the book onto the desk." Or, "She stepped onto the stage."

Because, if you can swap it for "upon" you can certainly use "onto."

But if it doesn't mean "upon," then it is because it is not behaving as a true preposition...because "on" is often a particle in a verbal phrase. Yup. It hangs out with verbs. It sticks to the verbs, instead of sticking to its brother "to."

It can be as easy as this: "I hang on to hope," where the verbal phrase is "to hang on (to something)." You don't "hang upon hope," so it's not a preposition.

It's a particle in a verbal phrase. It belongs to the verb. The verb gets upset if it settles with the late-comer "to."

So, rule of thumb: If you can swap it for "upon," then you can use "onto."
If you can't, then use "on to."

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How about you? Tell me about your pet peeve in the grammar jungle?!