Word Choice – In Versus Into

BizWritingTip reader: “French being my first language, I am having difficulty figuring out when I should use ‘into’ versus ‘in’ and ‘onto’ versus ‘on.’ As of today, I am almost exclusively using ‘in’ and ‘on’ since I am not quite sure when I should use ‘into’ and ‘onto.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: The nuances of these words are interesting. “Into” normally shows movement. “In” shows location. (The same thought holds for “on” and “onto.”)


I left my iPhone in the car. (location)
I left my iPhone on the car. (location – very bad idea)
I chipped the ball into the hole. (movement)
I have to turn his report into a reader-friendly document. (movement)
He threw the brochure onto my desk. (movement)

Another meaning for “in” is “in order to.”


The fireman went back in to rescue the child. (“In” is being used here – not for location but — in the sense of “in order to” rescue.)

“Into” can also refer to time.


The golf season lasted well into November.

Note: Be careful not to confuse “into” with “in to.” These words have different meanings. With “into” the emphasis is on the movement. “In to” is an adverb and the emphasis is on the “to.”


I will hand my resume in to the appropriate manager. (emphasis is on the “to”)
I will turn my resume into an online document. (emphasis is on the change)

A question:
A magician needs gas for his car. What should he do: 
turn into a gas station or 
turn in to a gas station?

Answer: If you chose “into,” he’s an amazing magician — being able to transform himself into a gas station.

The correct answer is in to.