Onto vs. On To

Onto vs. On To

Even seasoned English speakers will incorrectly use onto and on to in their writing, so it is little wonder that these are confusing to most people. Let's take a closer look at the word onto and when you should use it as opposed to the phrase on to.

Onto is a preposition meaning moving to or moving aboard or on. It denotes moving up onto something-on top of, upon, aboard.

1. Jeffrey climbed onto the counter so that he could reach the cookie jar.

2. Did you see that cat climb onto the tree floating in the water?

On to is a phrase, and typically you see the words juxtaposed when "on" on the part of a verb phrase and "to" is part of a prepositional phrase following the verb. This is not a situation where movement "aboard" is described.

1. We are moving on to chapter 7.

2. The class kept walking on to reach the next exhibit in the museum.

A good way to check to see if you have used onto correctly is to put an "up" in front of it. Since onto denotes moving on top of something, "up" will make sense in the sentence.

1. Jeffrey climbed up onto the counter.

2. Did you see that cat climb up onto the tree?

It won't work if you should use on to.

1. We are moving up on to chapter 7. (doesn't make sense)

2. The class kept walking up on to reach the next exhibit. (doesn't make sense)

In summary, the word onto should only be used in situations where you are describing a movement to be on top of, aboard, or upon.

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