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  • When do we use in instead of to ?

For example, a common error I see is:

I am going in Miami

which is wrong and should be

I am going to Miami

My understanding is "to" is used when referring to movement and "in" is used when emphasizing events that occurred in a place.

Another confusing example is:

Go to (OR) in the sitting room.

Can you clarify which would be correct in this case?

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  • I'll just point out that "go" also has a meaning of "to relieve oneself", which is another kind of movement. So "I am going in Miami" could be grammatically correct. And in that sense, you would go to the sitting room, and go in the bathroom. But I'm going to guess that isn't the meaning you're referring to.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 1:52

3 Answers 3

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As you correctly stated in your question, when you are describing movement towards a destination (in your example, the verb 'go'), you use the preposition 'to'. Depending on the destination, the article 'the' may also be required.

If you are describing a 'state of being' (for example, the stative verb 'to be') when referring to a destination, the preposition 'in' is used.

  • I am going to Miami. (movement)
  • I am in Miami. (state of being)

  • I am going to the living room. (movement)

  • I am in the living room. (state of being)

'Going in Miami' or 'going in the living room' would be incorrect in my opinion.

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Yes, they are slightly different.

  • "go + to + place" means moving towards the place.
  • "go + in + place" means to just enter a place.

Coming to your examples:

  • "Go to the sitting room" - moving towards the sitting room.
  • "Go in the sitting room" - to enter the sitting room.
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To X identifies X as the destination of a movement. It doesn't provide information on the method of movement or the destination.

In X means you are surrounded on many sides by X. This can be 3 dimensions (being inside a room, box) or 2 dimensions (being within the borders of an area on the floor/ground/map).

It doesn't provide information on X being related to movement, saying "I am in X" means you are already "in X" and no movement is happening or planned unless the verb says so. Verbs of movement with in X might mean you are moving while in X as opposed X being the place you'll land when the movement is done.

What if you want to say both at the same time? English's solution is into:

Go in the room.

Go to the room.

Go into the room.

Go to in the room (wrong).

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