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The Words In and Into

The Words In and Into
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Welcome back, everyone!

Last week, I answered a question from a reader about the prepositions on and onto. The other part of the question was about two more prepositions: in and into. So, today I will talk about them. Then, I will offer a tip on when to use all four words.

First, here is the question again, from last week:


I would like to know when I should use in, into, on or onto. Thanks.


Thank you again for the question!

As you may know, a preposition is a word that is used to show direction, position or time.

Like many English prepositions, in and into have more than one meaning. But to compare their uses, we need to focus on two things: position and direction.

The first thing to know is that in is about position and into is about direction.


We use the word in to show the position of something within or inside a larger place or area. In suggests the person or thing is at rest. So, we use verbs that suggest being at rest.

Listen to a few examples:

I am sitting in a coffee house writing a story.

The iguana is hiding in the tree.

Oh no! I left my metro card in the house.

Iguanas are natural swimmers. Maybe this one will jump into the water?
Iguanas are natural swimmers. Maybe this one will jump into the water?


The word into suggests movement toward something. We use it when a person or thing moves from an area outside to the inside.

Here are a few examples:

I walked into the coffee house and ordered a latte.

The iguana jumped into the water and swam away.

Oh no! My phone just fell into the sink.

You will probably hear English speakers using the word in when they really mean into. For example, someone might say:

Oh no! My phone just fell in the sink.

Into is more correct. But, in speech, in is a lot more common with some motion-related verbs, such as fall and put.

On, In, Onto, Into

And now for the tip:

Use the words on and in for position or location. The person or thing is usually at rest, so the verb usually does not suggest movement.

Use onto and into for direction. The person or thing is moving toward something. So, the verbs will suggest movement.

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Do you have a question for Ask a Teacher? Write to us in the comments area and tell us your name and country. You can also tell us something about yourself.


Words in This Story

tipn. a piece of advice or useful information

focus v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

iguanan. a large lizard that lives in the tropical regions of North, Central and South America

sinkn. a wide bowl that has a faucet for water and a drain at the bottom

locationn. a place or position