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Two persons are in a room: Emily and James. James is closer to the center of the room than Emily is. In other words, Emily is closer to the wall of the room than James is. Can this situation be described that James is inside Emily in a room?

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    In English, that particular phrasing gives a VERY different connotation.
    – Roger
    Jan 11, 2017 at 14:24
  • "Inside" doesn't really have degrees in English. You are either inside or you are not, but there isn't really such a thing as "more inside". You could say "deeper inside" or "further inside", but those sound applicable to something like a cave, but not a room.
    – stangdon
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:05
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    @Roger is right. "James is inside Emily in a room" is very awkward and would likely lead a native speaker to conclude that a sexual connotation was intended. Jan 11, 2017 at 16:03
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    The expression in English is 1) gibberish 2) fraught
    – Lambie
    Jan 11, 2017 at 16:34

4 Answers 4

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Unfortunately, no it can not be described the way you are thinking about it.

The phrase

James is inside Emily.

without further context would be understood as they are having sex, especially given the gender and positioning of the phrase. To not be misunderstood, you would need to provide more context or rephrase it to possibly

James is on the inside of Emily.

"The" turns it into a positional description, just as

James is on the right of Emily.
James is on the left of Emily.

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    "James is on the inside of Emily" could still be misconstrued.
    – Mick
    Jan 11, 2017 at 14:40
  • I would typically use "to the right". For some reason, I use "on the right" when describing where something is relative to the person I'm talking to. "Go straight and the café will be on (the/your) right." "In this picture, George is (to the left of Emily/on Emily's left)."
    – ColleenV
    Jan 11, 2017 at 14:50
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    Emily could be pregnant. Jan 11, 2017 at 14:52
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    @TRomano Good point! If James is the name of the baby, he would be no more closer to the center of the room than his Mom (given the way most women carry...)
    – Peter
    Jan 11, 2017 at 14:56
  • @Mick Agreed, one's interpretations often reflect one's preoccupations ;)
    – Peter
    Jan 11, 2017 at 14:58
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As Peter says, most readers' first thought would be that they are having sex. Or depending on context, you could use these words if James is an unborn baby who is in Emily's womb, or if James is a doctor who is performing surgery on Emily, or if James is a psychiatrist or a mind-reader, though in that last case a native speaker would be more likely to say "inside Emily's mind" or "inside Emily's head".

Saying what you are trying to say clearly requires more words. I think the most natural way to say it would be, "James is closer to the center of the room than Emily."

We say, "James is to the right of Emily" or "James is to the north of Emily". But there's really no corresponding phrasing for "center". We DON'T say, "James is to the center of Emily". Perhaps because for "left" or "right" or "north" or "south", we only need to mention the two people, but for "center" we also have to identify what the thing is that we are talking about being at the center of. The "center of the room" or the "center of city", etc. But even at that, I don't think I've ever heard someone say, "James is to the center of the room of Emily". They always had words like "closer to".

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  • Apostrophe police! (readers) Jan 11, 2017 at 19:20
  • Good point. Fixed. I surrender to the grammar Nazi attack. :-)
    – Jay
    Jan 11, 2017 at 19:29
  • I left your spelling of 'center' alone ;-) Jan 11, 2017 at 21:41
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Two persons are in a room: Emily and James. James is closer to the center of the room than Emily is. In other words, Emily is closer to the wall of the room than James is. Can this situation be described that James is inside Emily in a room?

No.

Both people are in the room. James stands in the centre and Emily by the wall.

I am not sure why it is important that you position Emily and James, but here is my suggestion:

James stood in the centre of the room and Emily stood by the wall.

or,

James stood in the centre of the room while Emily stood next to the wall.

These examples are not 'good' writing, but the meaning is clear. There are many ways to write this information, some more literary and some other ways of clearly stating their positions.

Some other words for stood: positioned, placed, located

Some other words for placed: lounged, sat, lay, settled

Some other words for next/close: alongside, adjacent, touching, beside

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@Jay mentioned that, unlike cardinal directions and left and right, "for "center" we also have to identify what the thing is that we are talking about being at the center of."

There are center/outer terms that can work analogously to the cardinal directions, but they are niche jargon terms.

You can use the terms coreward and rimward, which are used in some science fiction stories but don't seem to have a big following outside of sci-fi.

Using one of these terms in the context of the OP's room could be seen as a metaphorical extension of the concept of these directions with respect to a galaxy being reinterpreted with respect to a room. Thus, you could say,

James is coreward of Emily.

These terms should be avoided in formal writing, but there is no reason that you couldn't use them casually with a known science fiction fan.

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