Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In to vs. Into: Fun with Phrasal Verbs

This one made me laugh. Brian writes:
Hey Snarky. I was out sick for a few days and so my teacher and I e-mailed back and forth about some assignments.
Me: I'm pretty sure I already turned that paper into you.
Her: So now there are two of me? Ha ha!
What the heck is she talking about?  
Your teacher, a grammar geek after my own heart, has made a joke about phrasal verbs.

Where did your e-mail go wrong? You used the wrong preposition with an idiom. An idiom is a phrase whose definition can't be derived from the meanings of the words it contains.

What you wrote: I'm pretty sure I already turned that paper into you.
What you should have written: I'm pretty sure I already turned that paper in to you.

Quick rules:
  • When a  preposition is an integral part of a phrasal verb, also known as a two-word verb, then don't consider it a preposition; consider it part of the verb. Keep phrasal verbs intact.
The phrasal verb 'to turn in' means to submit. In is part of the verb 'turn in'  and to is the preposition. Turn your paper in to your teacher. Even better: Turn in your paper to your teacher. With that wording, the phrasal verb is kept together.

On the other hand, this is incorrect: Turn your paper into your teacher. Abracadabra! Your paper is now your teacher. Why? Because 'to turn into' is another phrasal verb meaning to transform, as if by magic.

Your teacher made a joke. Laugh and learn.


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