The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
On to is about the journey.
Onto is about the destination.
Imagine that you have decided to take a journey on foot to a distant land. To get to your destination, you must reach the crossroads.
So you walk on to the crossroads.
This sentence is describing your journey to the crossroads. It could take you all day to get there, or it could take you five minutes. (Let’s go for all night and into the morning — it sounds suitably epic.)
Finally, you reach your destination and walk onto the crossroads.
At this point you are walking on top of the crossroads. You have arrived at a certain point.
You take the King’s Road, which winds through an ancient forest situated on the side of a steep hill.
Unfortunately, you are going in the uphill direction, so you need to start climbing instead of walking. Once you are partway up, you spot a giant tree that has fallen across the road at the very top of the hill.
You groan in irritation, but you continue to climb on to the tree.
This describes your journey to reach the tree.
Your legs are killing you when you finally get to the top of the hill. After a brief pause, you begin to climb onto the tree.
Thankfully it has lots of hand- and footholds, and you make it to the top without too much trouble. You have made it onto the tree. You have arrived at your destination.
As you sit on top of your giant tree-bench, you reward yourself with a second breakfast. As you munch away, you hear occasional birdsong floating down from the birds that have landed onto the branches of the tall trees. As you finish the last crumbs and decide to move on to the river, you suddenly become aware of the silence. When did the birds stop singing?
Uh oh. You had forgotten that monsters occasionally travel this way…
Bonus Word: Occasionally
Before ending our story, let’s look at the tricky word occasionally, which is a challenging word to spell. How can you remember it?
If you separate the base word and its suffix, you get occasion + ally.
On the rare occasion when you encounter a monster, it is good to have an ally with you. Luckily, you remembered to bring your magic ring on your forest journey, and you call your wolf spirit animal to your side.
So now let’s look at the word occasion. It’s made up of two parts as well: occa + sion. The -sion suffix is recognizable — it’s also used in tension, which you felt before you remembered your magic ring.
This leaves us with occa.
Which is perfect, because with your wolf at your side, you are going to be ok-kay. After all, wolves like seconds breakfasts, too. 😉
Have you ever been on a long journey?
Image of Crooked Forest, Nowe Czarnowo from Wikimedia Commons
(Shortly after writing this post, I saw this article about someone who doesn’t think onto is a word, and just had to share it here.)
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will pummel the pernicious letter P…
© Sue Archer at Doorway Between Worlds, 2015