There are many words in the English language which are frequently confused by new writers. Take in regard or in regards for example. The two words unto vs onto are a perfect example of just that. In this post, we’ll break down the difference between these two similar words so that you can avoid making a silly typo.
Which Is Correct: Unto vs Onto?
Aft first glance, both unto & onto seem nearly identical, just like the words either vs ither. However, they actually have different meanings. The major difference between these two words can be seen by performing a quick parts of speech check.
- Unto – The word “unto” can actually be used as both a preposition and conjunction.
- Onto – Can act as both a preposition and an adjective.
However, these two words also have different definitions. Sometimes different words like auntie or aunty have the same meaning!
- Unto – As a preposition, it can be used to indicate direction or destination, as in “He walked unto the door.” As a conjunction, it can be used to mean a specific scenario, time or event that happens.
- Onto – As a preposition, “onto” indicates movement or placement, as in “he jumped onto the table.” As an adjective, “onto” means “being on or in contact with something,” as in “the paint is still wet, so be careful not to sit onto it.”
When To Use Unto
Unto is often used to express a motion.
- For example, “He went unto the city.” This means he went up to the city, or he moved towards the city.
- Another example is “I will count unto three.” This means I will count up to three.
Unto can also express movement up to a degree or time.
- “In marriage, two people swear loyalty unto death due them part.”
- “My mom drove unto the grocery store.”
However, just like we saw in our post on what does deactivate mean, spelling makes a big difference. Pay close attention as even small spelling changes can make a huge difference!
When To use Onto
“Onto” is a word that expresses or implies movement to a particular position or place.
- For example, you might say “I jumped onto the bed.” In this sentence, “onto” expresses the movement from the floor to the bed.
You can also use “onto” when you’re talking about putting something on top of something else. This reminds me of the spelling & grammar rules for deciding between nonetheless or nevertheless in your writing.
- “I put my book onto the table.” In this sentence, “onto” express the movement of the book from my hand to the table.
This rule also highlights one of the many differences between British and American English grammar rules.
Using Unto In A Sentence
- In olden days, knights would swear their loyalty unto their king.
- He will do unto others as they did to him in the past.
- Our uncle ran unto the library.
- I swear loyalty unto the flag of the United States of America.
- Unto dust you shall return.
Just like we saw in our post about how do you spell excellent, writers make mistakes. And that’s ok! Always proofread and review your writing before publishing.
Using Onto In A Sentence
- I’m not getting onto that bus.
- The cat jumped onto the roof and promptly fell off.
- I don’t know how she got onto the team with those skills.
- He spilled his drink all over me! Get onto cleaning this mess up!
- I couldn’t help but spill my coffee onto my new shirt.
FAQs – Unto & Onto
“On to the next” is a phrasal verb that means “moving on to the next thing”. It can be used to describe both positive and negative events. For example, “After I caught the fish, I was on to the next task” means that I completed the first task and moved on to the next. When you add a space it becomes a verb phrase.
Onto is an English preposition that expresses movement. For example, “She walked onto the stage.” Or “the dog jumped onto me.” The second sentence indicates movement of the dog onto “me”. The first sentence indicates that she movement onto the stage.
There are a few words that can be used in place of “onto”, such as “apart”, “alongside”, and “upon”. But my personal favorite is “on the top of”, which emphasizes the location of something. For example, you might say, “The cat is on the top of the tree.” or “I put the book on the top of the shelf.”
“Onto” and “on to” seem similar but are NOT the same. Adding a space creates two separate words. “On to” is a verbal phrase that is used when it does not make sense to substitute for “upon” or “on”. Although there are just subtle differences between “onto” and “on to”, they are different. Most people use phrasal verbs daily without even realizing it!
The phrase “unto God” can be interpreted in a few different ways. The most common interpretation is that it means “in accordance with the will of God.” In other words, whatever we do should be done in obedience to the wishes of God.
Final Thoughts – Unto vs Onto
Now you know the difference between these two commonly confused terms. The context of you sentence and whether you follow British and American English determine which word is the correct choice. There is a very specific scenario in which each phrase should be used. If you need some extra help, use our spelling correction tool to make things easy. Use these grammar tips to improve your writing level today!