‘I’ll go and get him,’ said Dexter. ‘Athena – Vicki must be sat near the warmth. She’s from sunnier climes, aren’t you, Vicki.’ He rounded her up, sidling and dancing with his arms out in their big curve. Vicki scowled with embarrassment, but obeyed. Elizabeth abandoned her plan to watch ‘Sale of the Century’, and allowed herself to be shuffled to a chair. She drew off her gloves.

A bigger boy ran in the back door, and kicked it to. He had the same home-cut hair as Billy’s, a helmet of blond silk.

Does it mean:

  1. A bigger boy ran through the back door, and kicked the door shut?

  2. A bigger boy ran toward the back door, and kicked it to someone open it for him?

Source: The children's Bach by Helen Garner

  • 4
    There is nobody stated after to, and that's your clue. When you see this, you know that to must mean something different than to another person. Here, it means shut. It means this because the bigger boy is kicking the door to the jamb, or the frame, in such a way that the door closes. Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 14:25
  • many thanks, so is my first guess correct? Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 14:46
  • Banged it to, kicked it to, slammed it to, pushed it to, slid it to. All quite normal. Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 17:08

5 Answers 5


Your first interpretation is correct - he kicked the door shut.

In this context, "to" is used as an adverb describing the result of the action, i.e. that the door is now closed.

From Merriam-Webster:



3a: into contact especially with the frame —used of a door or a window

// the door snapped to


Here the word "to" means "into contact especially with the frame — used of a door or a window" (Merriam Webster)

  • 2
    To me "to" does not mean the same as "shut". It means "sort of shut", but it may not be firmly shut, or there may even be a small gap.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 21:52

What follows is my understanding of how to and shut are used in the UK.

Consider a door which has some form of latch. If you pull it shut then you have moved it so that the latch engages and it cannot be opened again without operating the latch. If you pull it to then you have moved it so that there is only a small gap around the door (it is ajar) or you may have pulled it shut. The usage is the same for similar objects like windows, shutters, gates, ...

We can also use pull to for curtains or blinds.

In the context of someone kicking the door to it seems unlikely that he would have managed to actuate the mechanism of the latch correctly so it probably remained ajar which is why the author chose kicked it to.


"to" here meaning to the closed and latched position, presumably.


The sentence presented is simply not correct. I don’t understand what it means, but there are two possibilities:

  1. A word is missing at the end - something like “kicked it to Fred”, or
  2. The “to” was supposed to be “too” - “kicked it too (also)”
  • 1
    There's nothing wrong with the sentence presented, as the other answers have made clear.
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 23:54

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