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On to vs. Onto

Rule 1: In general, use onto as one word to mean “on top of,” “to a position on,” “upon.”

Examples:
He climbed onto the roof.
Let’s step onto the dance floor.

Rule 2: Use onto when you mean “fully aware of,” “informed about.”

Examples:
I’m onto your scheme.
We canceled Julia’s surprise party when we realized she was onto our plan.

Rule 3: Use on to, two words, when on is part of the verb.

Examples:
We canceled Julia’s surprise party when we realized she caught on to our plan.
(caught on is a verb phrase)
I’m going to log on to the computer. (log on is a verb phrase)

 

Pop Quiz
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing on to/onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. My daughter is going on to/onto graduate school.
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. The Gateses have moved on to/onto a life of philanthropy.

 

Pop Quiz Answers
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. My daughter is going on to graduate school.
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. The Gateses have moved on to a life of philanthropy.

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Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, at 8:53 am


Problems with Prepositions

Prepositions are certain words that go directly before nouns. They often show direction; for example, below, above, over, under, around, through, in, out, between, among, to, toward(s), etc. Other common prepositions include of, for, from, with, like.

Rule: You shouldn’t use or end a sentence with an unnecessary preposition, i.e., when the meaning is clear without the preposition. Sentences may end with necessary prepositions.

Correct: That is something I cannot agree with.
With is a necessary preposition.

Incorrect: Where did he go to?
Correct: Where did he go?
To is unnecessary because the meaning is clear without it.

Rule: Don’t follow like with a subject and verb because prepositions are followed only by nouns that act as the object of the preposition. Use as, as if, as though, or the way instead of like when a subject and verb follow.

Correct: I wish I could be more like her.

Incorrect: It doesn’t look like she will show up for dinner.
Correct: It doesn’t look as if (or as though) she will show up for dinner.

Incorrect: Do it like I taught you.
Correct: Do it the way I taught you.

 

Pop Quiz
Which sentence is correct?

1A. Where did you get this at?
1B. Where did you get this?

2A. I will go later on.
2B. I will go later.

3A. Take your shoes off the bed.
3B. Take your shoes off of the bed.

4A. Cut it up into small pieces.
4B. Cut it into small pieces.

5A. I look like my sister.
5B. I look as my sister.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. B
2. B
3. A
4. B
5. A

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Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2008, at 12:31 am


Different From vs. Different Than

Different from is the standard phrase. Most scholars obstinately avoid different than, especially in simple comparisons, such as You are different from me.

However, some of the experts are more tolerant of different than, pointing out that the phrase has been in use for centuries, and has been written by numerous accomplished authors. These more-liberal linguists point out that a sentence like It is no different for men than it is for women is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like It is no different for men from the way it is for women.

They may have a point, but many fine writers have had no problem steering clear of different than for their entire careers.

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Posted on Friday, July 6, 2007, at 2:46 pm