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He was born in 1966 into a country with a great mathematical school.

A native speaker wrote it, and there are examples on Ngram. Does into simply mean in or there is additional meaning? into is more suited for movement, direction or attention.

I know that you can say "he married into this shop," and it means that his wife owns the property (the shop) and when he married her he became an owner of this property as well, so he kind of married into this property.

But I don't think that this works for a country.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is a common phrase, but something of a fossil.

It goes back to a time when the connection between be born = “come into existence” and the active verb bear = “carry” was much stronger. Until the 18th century be born still had for many speakers a distinctively passive sense of be carried, be brought. In that context, into is more natural:

She bore her son into the world. > He was born into the world.

It was only about 1775 that the past participle of bear came to be orthographically distinguished (borne, with a final e) from that of be born. In effect, be born was recategorized as a distinct word—a deponent verb (one which exists only in the passive).

But we still distinguish idiomatically between born in and born into. In is used to identify location: She was born in England, Kansas, Nairobi, St. James Hospital. Into is used to identify an environment: She was born into a noble family, great wealth, a world of poverty and misery. Your writer clearly thinks of the country where the subject was born not as merely a location but as an environment offering a specific advantage: a school of mathematics.

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+1 Indeed, you are StoneyB! –  Maulik V Mar 19 at 17:34
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This form is used when the writer intends to emphasise some aspect of the country that existed at the time of birth. In this case the presence of a Mathematical School.

This is to set the scene in the narrative for either:

  • That the individual being spoken of has some advantage or disadvantage compared to other persons in the narrative who were born elsewhere.
  • That the individual went on to change the aspect in some way.

It is not an uncommon structure when, for example, starting a biography or novel.

The use of into is intended to impart significance. It implies that the birth is portentous for the story. It could be regarded as an affectation to use into rather than simply in.

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Why does 'into' bring this meaning? –  Graduate Mar 19 at 10:14
    
Because "into" indeed gives the idea of movement. The person is somehow pre-existing his birth and it is decided then into which country, or family, this specific (pre-destined?) person will be born. Usually, birth just happens somewhere. For a pre-destined soul (a future mathematical genius?), the soul is moved into the country or family where it will thrive. Even without the literal (arguably religious) interpretation, the connotation seems to be there, implying that the subject is "special". –  oerkelens Mar 19 at 10:31
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I agree. I prefer using born in a country with...

The phrase born into is generally used when you born in some family or in something (say, building as in Born into Brothels).

But then, it's a wild guess of mine -

Born into any country means the person has better rights or he's more of the country's citizen as compared to others? OR exactly opposite - very less rights and he's a hateful person?

Maybe, the person has some extra or no privileges, rights or the like.

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I think it has to do more with (implied, if not literal) pre-destination than with privileges :) –  oerkelens Mar 19 at 10:32
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