As you might have noticed from browsing some other posts on this site, compounds — nouns, adjectives and verbs — are some of writing’s trickiest elements.
But prepositions haven’t been left out of the madness. The word “into” is one of these prepositional compounds. It and its cousin, onto, are often misused in conjunction with phrasal verbs. Here are a couple of examples.
Incorrect: He logged into the website.
Correct: He logged in to the website.
Incorrect: She gave into her sister’s demands.
Correct: She gave in to her sister’s demands.
Correct: The tiger transformed into a cuddly house cat.
Incorrect: The tiger transformed in to a cuddly house cat.
Correct: Then, the house cat fell into a deep sleep.
Incorrect: Then, the house cat fell in to a deep sleep.
There is something intuitive to figuring out whether “into” or “in to” should be used. Most people would have guessed correctly which to use in the above sentences. But why?
It’s fairly clear in the first two sentences that “He logged in” and “She gave in” would be complete and sensible sentences on their own. “to the website” and “to her sister’s demands” only add detail, not meaning. After all, you can “log in as” someone, but you don’t “log inas” anyone.
If we similarly truncate the last two sentences, we are left with “The tiger transformed in” and “the house cat fell in.” These chunks cannot stand alone as phrases with the same basic meanings as the complete sentences.
As with most rule-of-thumb tests, this will work 100 percent of the time about 90 percent of the time. For instance, be on the lookout for “buy into” and “buy in,” which are phrasal verbs you might confuse with one another if you use the above test.
The converts bought into the preacher’s radical teachings.
Yes, it would be correct to say that “the converts bought in,” and yes, it would have roughly the same idiomatic meaning as the entire sentence. Just remember that even though it is also correct to say that a poker player has “bought in,” “buy into” is a different phrasal verb that stands alone.
Confused? Even so, keep working at it, and try on Web words for more of the same!