To (The Preposition)

"To" Is a Preposition

When "to" is used in expressions like "to the park," "to the postman," and "agree to a proposal," it is a preposition.

Usually, you can replace "to" with "for" or "toward," both of which are also prepositions. For example:
  • I wrote a letter to Santa Claus. correct tick
  • (As "I wrote a letter for Santa Claus" also works, "to" is correct.) correct tick
  • She went to the shops. correct tick
  • ("She went toward the shop" has a slightly different meaning, but it works grammatically. Therefore, "to" is correct.)

What Is a Preposition?

The word "preposition" means positioned before. A preposition sits typically before a word to show that word's relationship to another nearby word. For example:
  • Give the bone to the dog.
  • (Here, the preposition "to" tells us the relationship between "give" and "dog.")
  • He is a boy from the ghetto.
  • (Here, the preposition "from" tells us the relationship between "ghetto" and "boy.")
The following are also prepositions: "in," "on," "at," "around," "above," "near," "underneath," "alongside," "of," and "for." Read more about prepositions.

More about "To" As a Preposition

Using "to" as a preposition is extremely common. Using "too" as a preposition is a serious grammar mistake. The word "to" has two uses. The one covered on this page is its use as a preposition.

This infographic summarizes the different uses of "to" and "too":

to or too?
All the uses of "too" and "to" are shown in the lesson the difference between "to" and "too".

More Examples of "To" as a Preposition

  • Alan gave the box to me. correct tick
  • ("To" shows the relationship between the words "gave," "box," and "me.")
  • Please return the slips to the secretary. correct tick
Here is a real-life example:
  • I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book. correct tick (Comedian Groucho Marx)
The next two examples are mistakes. ("Too" cannot be used as a preposition.)
  • They should send all of them too the moon. wrong cross
  • Is that the diamond you gave too your cousin? wrong cross

"To" Is Not Always a Preposition

The word "to" is also used as the sign of the infinitive. This means it appears before a verb to show the verb is in its basic form. For example:
  • I want to run.
  • It is important to think.
  • (In these examples, the word "to" is not a preposition.)
Here is a real-life example:
  • I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. (Groucho Marx)
  • (Here, "to" is not a preposition.)
Look at this example:
  • Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you. (Groucho Marx)
  • (Here, the first "to" marks an infinitive verb, but the second one is a preposition.)
Read more about "to" as the sign of the infinitive.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.