• "got in the car": 50,000,000 hits

  • "got into the car": 17,900,000 hits

  • "got in Japan": 178,000 hits

  • "got into Japan": 1,160,000 hits

After having observed that the hit ratio of "got in the car"/"got into the car" is equal to 2.79, whereas the hit ratio of "got in Japan"/"got into Japan" is equal to 0.15, I began to wonder whether the choice between "in" and "into" could depend on the largeness of the object to which the preposition is referred to. Could it?

  • 4
    Google's estimates of hits for multi-word phrases are almost worthless. They are very crude estimates made by combining counts for the words with (I guess) some kind of N-gram frequency among the first batch of hits. Try Google Ngrams for more reliable counts of phrases up to 4 words in written corpuses. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 10 '13 at 12:53
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    @Gilles A number which cannot be relied on to have any meaningful relationship to reality is not "almost worthless" - it is "entirely worthless"! – StoneyB Oct 10 '13 at 13:04
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    Although Google hits aren’t a good way to determine how common a usage is, and GNV says “got in Japan” is actually written more often than “got into Japan”, I think there’s still a good question here. – Tyler James Young Oct 10 '13 at 15:45
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    Another problem with comparing usages with pretty much any tool is going to be phrases written with these words that aren’t what you’re referring to, like “I got into Japan after learning a bit about the culture” or “check out this new gadget I got in Japan.” – Tyler James Young Oct 10 '13 at 15:45
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    I would say “I got into Japan late last night.” I think that's a perfectly valid phrasing. I would also say “I got in late last night.” I can't explain why I would never say “I got in Japan late last night.” – Tyler James Young Oct 10 '13 at 20:01

"Get in" or "Get into" is a common idiom when you are placing yourself inside some more-or-less enclosed, approximately person-sized compartment such as a car, phone booth, or boat. (See also In vs. On for vehicles.) This usage is more focused on the end result of you being inside something.

"Get into" (but not "get in") is also a common idiom when you have to expend some unusual effort to cross a border or pass some barrier to normal entry. This usage is more focused on the actual crossing of the boundary/barrier instead of the end result.

For example:

"I got into Mexico by paying off the crossing guard"


"I didn't have my key, but I got into my house anyway by climbing through a window."

Barring unusual circumstances, though, the normal expression for entering a larger area like a city, state, or country is simply "go to", which places the focus on the time spent at the destination:

When I went to Japan, I ate nothing but ahi tuna the entire time.

Although, if the focus of the statement is on the actual arrival itself, "get to" can also be used:

When I got to Japan, I was so jetlagged that I couldn't even read the signs that were in English.

So, to answer your question directly, because Japan is not a more-or-less-enclosed compartment of approximately person size, we don't generally use "into" when referring to our arrival there.

You will also find "get into" used to indicate that someone has developed a particular interest in something:

After I read "Shogun", I really got into Japan.

Here the speaker has not necessarily actually visited Japan, but has simply become unusually interested in some elements of Japanese culture.


"I got in the car" is a very common way of saying that you moved yourself form being outside of the car to being inside of the car. It is the same as saying "I got into the car". However, you wouldn't say "I got into the bus", "I got into my house" or "I got into Japan" in the same way.

"travelled to Japan", "went to Japan", "flew to Japan" are common ways of saying that you moved yourself form outside of Japan to inside of Japan.

However, "got in Japan" can still be used in other sentences, such as:

"Look at the book I got in Japan!"

A sentence containing "got into Japan" might include:

"I got into Japan on a working visa"

but such sentences are rare compared to: "I got in the car and drove off".

Here are some sentences, starting with the smallest object and getting bigger:

  • Here's the sandwich I got on the way home.
  • I got into trouble.
  • I got on the swing.
  • I got into the shower.
  • I got into the lift.
  • I got into the car.
  • I got on the tractor.
  • I got into the minibus.
  • I got on the bus.
  • I got into the pool.
  • I got on the train.
  • I got into the nightclub

So no, there is no concrete rule here regarding the size of the object.

  • Yes, albeit it is still unclear why, for example, you cannot say 'I got into the bus', but you can say 'I got into the car'. – user2903 Oct 10 '13 at 20:44
  • @Whiskey You say instead "I got on the bus" And you say "I went into the house". – Baz Oct 10 '13 at 20:46
  • @Whiskey Other examples: I got in the swimming pool. I went into the cinema. I got on the tractor. I got on the ladder. I got on the airplane. – Baz Oct 10 '13 at 20:50
  • Baz, thank you again, but can you say 'I got in the space' or 'I got in a terrestrial orbit'? – user2903 Oct 10 '13 at 20:53
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    Baz, or, maybe, they depend on the largeness of the movement from being outside to being inside. Do they? – user2903 Oct 10 '13 at 21:05

There is not, as far as I know any rule that dictates when "got in" is appropriate and when a different phrase should be used. This is one of those cough,through, situations (cough is pronounced coff, trough is pronounced troff, but through is pronounced threw, but there is not a good reason why). In short you can say

I got in Japan

But everyone will look at you funny, it is more a matter of style and preference than grammar.

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