Friday, June 07, 2013

"log in," "login," or "log-in"?

"Log in" is a phrasal verb (like put in, put out, put up [with], put through, put over, etc.).

CORRECT: Please log in to the e-conference.
INCORRECT: Please login to the e-conference.
INCORRECT: Please log-in to the e-conference.
INCORRECT: Please log into the e-conference.

What's wrong with "log into"? The phrasal verb is "log in," not "log into." (Same goes for "hold on," as when Samuel Jackson says, "Hold on to your butts!" in "Jurassic Park.") Phrasal verbs are composed of verb stems and prepositions; the preposition matters, and can't be exchanged with another. Since the verb is "hold on," the "on" can't be exchanged with "onto." Thus, to add a "to," one simply writes it in as a separate word: "hold on to."

The terms "login" and "log-in" are adjectives or possibly nouns.

CORRECT: Please enter your login info.
CORRECT: Please enter your log-in info.
INCORRECT: Please enter your log in info.

The general rule for phrasal and compound adjectives is that they either (1) retain their "closed-compound" (i.e., one-word) form before or after the word they modify or (2) are hyphenated when preceding the words they modify.


a six-foot man
an eighteen-inch penis
a four-star restaurant
a gunshot wound
an idiot-proof cap
a snakebite kit
a bear-trap injury
a grandfather clause
a well-known porn star

One major exception to the hyphenation rule is if the first word in a phrasal adjective is actually an adverb ending in -ly.

a quickly moving river
a fast-flowing river
(see the difference? "fast" has no "-ly")
a well-written essay
an intelligently written essay

[NB: For a more in-depth look at compound adjectives, see here.]

Which sentences contain errors?

1. Honey, I'm trying to hack into my son's email by using his log in name and password.

2. The porn actress complained about her partner's schlong, which was at least thirteen-inches flaccid, but positively monstrous when aroused.

3. Clara screamed and gave birth to a writhing, one-ton alien.

4. Entering our site is easy! Just login with your created ID.

5. I hate to see you two breakup.

6. My children can easily open child proof bottles.

7. The general had four stars on his uniform.

8. Now that's a swiftly-tilting planet, Mrs. L'Engle!

9. I caught a ten-pound bass!

10. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is a cleverly crafted film.

11. The recently-deceased queen will be buried on Sunday.

12. The suddenly deceased king will be buried with sundaes.

13. They retain their closed compound form.

14. Christ, this is a real dead end town.

15. Hold onto sixteen as long as you can.

ANSWERS (highlight between the brackets to see): [All incorrect except: 3, 7, 9, 10, and 12.]

I hope this clears matters up. ("to clear up"—that's a phrasal verb, too! Phrasal verbs are one way to know that English is a Germanic language: Germans can, for example, einsteigen [get on], aussteigen [get off], or umsteigen [transfer] a bus. They can also mitkommen [come with] someone. Kommst du mit? "You coming along?")


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