The Grammarphobia Blog

Logging in (or on): Go configure

Q: Do you “log in” or “log on” when you connect to a computer? Is “login” a recognized verb? A related question: do you log “in to” or “into” (“on to” or “onto”) a PC?

A: You can either “log in” or “log on” when you begin a computer session.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) defines the two verbal phrases this way: “To enter into a computer the information required to begin a session.”

(American Heritage defines “log off” or “log out” as to enter the command to end a computer session.)

Standard dictionaries don’t recognize “login” as a verb. In fact, only a few standard dictionaries even have entries for the noun “login.”

American Heritage defines the noun as the process of identifying oneself to a computer, usually by entering one’s username and password.”

The Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary adds that it can also refer to just the username and password that someone uses to log in.

The earliest published reference in the Oxford English Dictionary for either phrasal verb (“log in,” in this case) is from a 1963 M.I.T. programming guide: “When he next logs in, he should relieve the excess … by adequate deletions.”

As for your last question, you log “in to” or “on to” a computer, NOT “into” or “onto” it. (Here, you need “to” because you’re mentioning the object—the computer.)

As Pat says in Woe Is I, her grammar and usage book, you don’t combine “in” and “to” or “on” and “to” just because they happen to be next to each other.

Into is for entering something (like a room or a profession), for changing the form of something (an ugly duckling, for instance), or for making contact (with a friend or a wall, perhaps),” she writes.

Here are some examples from the book: “Get into the coach before it turns into a pumpkin, and don’t bang into the door! Otherwise, use in to. Bring the guests in to me, then we’ll all go in to dinner.

As for “on to/onto,” if you mean “on top of” or “aware of,” use “onto.” Here are examples from Woe Is I:

The responsibility shifted onto Milo’s shoulders. “I’m really onto your shenanigans,” he said. Otherwise, use on to. Hang on to your hat.

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