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On To vs. Onto
Although I issued an expanded grammar tip on this topic in the weekly E-Newsletter of January 24, 2012, I am still receiving many good questions on when to use the two words on to or the one word onto. Today, with the help of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, I will expand our first rule which should help clarify some of the gray areas pointed out by alert readers.
Rule 1 – In general, use onto as one word to mean on top of, to a position on, upon. If you can use up before on, use onto.
He climbed (up) onto the roof.
Let’s step onto the dance floor.
She held on to her child in the crowd. (She did not hold up her child.)
I’m going to log on to the computer.
Rule 2: Use onto when you mean fully aware of; informed about.
Example: We canceled Julia's surprise party when we realized she was onto our plan.
Click here to learn hundreds of distinctions between common words.
Choose the correct word in the sentences below. Scroll down to view answers.
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing on to/onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. After capsizing, Ming and Lee held on to/onto the side of their boat until rescuers arrived.
3. Jose stepped down from the ladder on to/onto the ground.
4. The magician realized one person in the audience was on to/onto his trick.
5. After you drive five miles, turn on to/onto Highway 280 south.
6. You better hold on to/onto your hat on that roller coaster!
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Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety-one?
If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, then doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?
Pop Quiz Answers
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. After capsizing, Ming and Lee held on to the side of their boat until rescuers arrived.
3. Jose stepped down from the ladder onto the ground.
4. The magician realized one person in the audience was onto his trick.
5. After you drive five miles, turn onto Highway 280 south.
6. You better hold on to your hat on that roller coaster!
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.