1. Helen kicked Annie in the face.
  2. Helen kicked Annie's face.

Do these sentences have the same meaning? If not, please explain it to me. I think no. 1 is not as exact as no. 2.

1 Answer 1


I don't believe there is a significant difference between 1 and 2 in terms of meaning. 1 is an idiomatic way of expressing 2, at least in the US. 2 is more formal than 1, and it's likely that 1 is used more often than 2, at least informally and in the US. You can use in the [X] with other body parts or other actions that have some kind of contact. A few examples are:

    1. Helen kicked Jim in the groin.
    2. Helen kicked Jim's groin.
    1. Helen punched Annie in the face.
    2. Helen punched Annie's face.
    1. Helen shot Annie in the foot.
    2. Helen shot Annie's foot.

There is at least one exception. Helen kicked Annie in the butt means that Helen kicked Annie and the point of contact was Annie's butt. Helen kicked Annie's butt can mean the same thing, but it is likely to be understood with the following definition.

kick someone's butt
US informal + sometimes impolite

  1. : to attack and injure someone severely <Some drunk threatened to kick his butt.>
  2. : to defeat someone easily or completely <She'll kick your butt in tennis.>

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