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When should “into” be used rather than “in to,” and vice versa?

I am sorry if the question is silly, but I think I heard both options spoken by native speaker. So, which one is correct?

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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Apr 7 '11 at 21:13

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree with Steve Melnikoff that put something in sounds more natural. Put something into puts the emphasis on the motion, put something in on the target.

Examples for use of put something into that portray that fact are:

  • put something into motion (formerly motionless)
  • put into play
  • put into effect

There is a verb put in something, meaning to apply, plant, spend (time/money), introduce, (nautically) enter a harbor or port.

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Both are correct, but "in" sounds more natural.

Incidentally, if you were in the UK, you would say, "Put it in the fridge". :-)

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1  
One would say "Put it in the fridge" in the U.S. as well. :) –  Robusto Nov 26 '10 at 14:24

I think that we use into when we want to emphasize the fact that an object or a person changes their place. For example, we would say

He got into the train

instead of

He got in the train

but

He is in the train

instead of

He is into the train

But again, this is something I'm trying to remember properly, and I'm not absolutely sure.

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2  
Actually, in American English at least, one would be unlikely to use "in" when describing the process of boarding a train, bus, or airplane. Americans say "on" in this case, as in "Get on the bus" ( imdb.com/title/tt0116404 ). The late George Carlin, a famous American comedian who made his name lampooning, among other things, illogical English constructions, pointed out that he would much rather ride "in" the plane than "on" it, as the American idiom insists. –  Robusto Nov 26 '10 at 14:30
1  
@Robusto: ditto for British English. –  Steve Melnikoff Nov 26 '10 at 14:48

Both usages are fine as per Wikitionary, based on the implied meaning:

in: into

Less water gets in your boots this way.

into: going inside (of)

Mary danced into the house.

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For me, "into" implies motion (or perhaps motion in a metaphorical domain). If you are using a verb which already has motion (such as "go" or "put") it is not necessary, and I think is slightly more formal, than "in".

There is rarely a difference in meaning, but where the "in" could be paraphrased as "from" or "out of", then "into" is definitely wrong. So "I got the toy in the box" and "I got the toy into the box" are both fine, but "I found the toy into the box" doesn't make sense, and "I read the story into the book" is definitely wrong (unless you mean somehow the technical computer sense of read, where you can "read" something into somewhere, as well as out of somewhere).

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