What is inside of the head?

The foreigner is probably hiding inside of the city.

'Inside of' is used as an adverb/preposition in these two sentences. In BrE it would sound as "inside the head/city". Is this combination "inside + of" acceptable in AmE?

(I have read all the previous answers on the theme and found out that only Macmillan Dictionary gives such an example.)

  • 1
    I would need more. Inside my head could mean that I think too much, I make problems larger because I'm inside my head too much. It could mean imaginary. It's all in my head -- fabricated., It could mean inside THE head -- a bathroom on a boat. – WRX Feb 4 '17 at 17:17
  • @Willow Rex: The brain is inside OF the head. – Yulia Feb 4 '17 at 17:21
  • "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Marx – Mark Hubbard Feb 4 '17 at 17:29
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    Someone will probably check an NGram of "inside" and "inside of," but to my AmerE ear, we usually drop the "of," especially in speech; e.g., "Where is the part I'm looking for?" "It's inside the box." The "of" tends to be used for emphasis; e.g., "I can't find it!" "It's inside of the box." – Mark Hubbard Feb 4 '17 at 17:37
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    One example where I would expect "of" is when "inside" is used with a period of time ("inside of two weeks," meaning "within two weeks"). This usage was never very common (in comparison to "within") and were more common 100 years ago than now, but "inside of" seems to have retained the lead over "inside": books.google.com/ngrams/… – David K Feb 4 '17 at 20:25

As Mark Hubbard's joke eloquently illustrates, in this context, "inside of" the head is an anatomical question. It's meant to be interpreted literally, like what are the bits and pieces inside the human head. If you want to ask what someone is thinking you would say:

What is going on inside (of) your/his/her/my head?

"So-and-so is hiding inside of the city" is fine, but again, it's a literal meaning "within the borders of the city". In this context there isn't much difference between "inside of" and "inside".

We usually drop the "of", but either is fine.

  • Many thanks, Andrew. So it doesn't matter if "inside" or "inside of" is used in the sentence like this "Before they could go inside of the room a gust of wind blew from within the room", does it? – Yulia Feb 4 '17 at 17:57
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    My sense, Yulia, is that in "inside of", the "of" is a spillover from some other language, and that in practically every case you can leave it off and just say "inside". In Yiddish, which Marx spoke, his joke would be "aroys fun a hunt, a bukh iz der mensch zayn beste frent. In fun a hunt, es iz tsu tunkl tsu layzen", where the "fun" is English's "of". – MMacD Feb 4 '17 at 18:13
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    @Yulia since it seems to matter in BrE, I would avoid using "of". That way you're good anywhere you go. – Andrew Feb 4 '17 at 18:24
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    As an AmE speaker, I find the "of" in "inside of" to be so unusual that I would not use it without some particular reason it needed to occur in that particular sentence; for example, the Groucho Marx quote, you need "inside of a dog" as a play on the words "outside of a dog." It might also occur in informal speech, but that's because we say all kinds of things informally as long as the meaning is clear enough. – David K Feb 4 '17 at 19:47
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    In BrE, you can certainly use "inside of" when "inside" is a noun. When it is an adjective, preposition or adverb, you don't use "of". Examples: "the inside [noun] of the hut was painted white" and "they went inside [preposition] the hut." – alephzero Feb 4 '17 at 19:48

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