NOTE: All these articles are based on British grammar and the techniques I used to help myself, they are by no means definitive.
There are three types of to: to, too and two. We can discount two because that is a number so as long as we know we don’t mean a number then it’s not two. However, that still leaves ‘to’ and ‘too’ to get confused.
Too is in fact an adverb that can mean ‘also’ such as:
They went to the park too.
They also went to the park.
So one way to remember this could be to try and rephrase the sentence with ‘also’ to see if that works:
That works too.
That also works.
However, this rule doesn’t always work because ‘too’ can also mean an excess of something:
There was too much noise.
They were running too fast.
They were too far away.
The way I help myself remember is by thinking of it as multiples. I’m referring to more than one or a lot of something therefore I need two Os.
When we use ‘to’ we’re often referring to a single act or action:
I want to go home.
I have to get that.
I don’t want to know.
Here we’re referring to one action therefore need one O. You could say, ‘But what if you’d been referring to three somethings’. I might say, ‘Well, I can refer to three objects but I’m only referring once’.
Two other words often confused are ‘then’ and ‘than’. The easiest way to remember the difference between these is that ‘then’ always refers to something happening in sequence:
We went to the park then we went for ice cream.
I went out in the morning then came back in the afternoon.
‘I’ll see you later then?’
In the last example we might say that isn’t a sequence but refers to the passage of time, for simplicity time is also sequential so we’re still referring to something that happens after that moment.
When we use ‘than’ we’re creating a comparison:
I can run faster than them.
Sooner you than me
However, ‘than’ comes with an additional set of problems when we’re using he/she/I. When we use than in the ‘correct’ grammatical way we end on the pronoun, he/she/I:
He runs slower than I (do)
I run faster than he (does)
I am taller than she (is)
This never sounds quite right and nowadays, although it is grammatically incorrect, we often change the phrasing:
I run faster than him.
I am taller than her.
Or, to keep it correct and to make you wonder why they ever used the original rule we can also keep the verb:
He runs slower than I do.
I run faster than he does.
I am taller than she is.
At which point we seem to have circled back to the beginning of than.
NOTE: Each article series comes in five parts published between Monday and Friday. Check back tomorrow for the next part.