'Into' or 'in to'?

I was recently asked to settle an argument about whether you should write “I’m not into sports” or “I’m not in to sports.” Instinct may tell you it’s the first one, and you’re right. But understanding why is another matter — especially when you ponder similar sentences like “He’ll drop in to see you tomorrow,” in which “in to” should be two words.

So how might you find these answers on your own if you don’t have a personal grammar valet on call? The first one is easy. It’s in the dictionary — but you’ll find it only if you understand the importance of reading all the different definitions for a word. The second one requires a basic understanding of a concept called phrasal verbs.

To find out whether it’s “I’m not into sports,” look up “into” in a dictionary. In Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, for example, you’ll see it’s a preposition that’s “used as a function word to indicate entry, introduction, insertion, superposition, or inclusion.”

That’s not helpful, which is why you might be tempted to stop reading there. That would be a mistake because if you look at all the definitions, you’ll eventually get to 4c, which defines “into” as “involved with or interested in.” Merriam’s two examples: “into sports; not into her music.”

That fast, you have your answer: “into” is one word in “I’m not into sports.”

To understand why “in to” is two words in “He’ll drop in to see you tomorrow,” you need to know about phrasal verbs. Here's my recent column explaining this handy grammar concept.

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