What is the difference between using IN or WITH in the sentences below?

  1. He broke the thick sheet of glass IN/WITH one hit.

  2. Everyone was surprised that he won the fight IN/WITH one punch.

Additionally, I would like to know the specific definition of IN in these sentences. Using WITH would denotes "by means of", which fits its usage above. However, I can't find a dictionary entry that closely matches the usage of IN in the same context. Any links you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Both definitions three and five of in as a preposition could be possible interpretations, which is why "in" is such an effective preposition here: It helps to understand succinctly that the effect had occurred quickly and efficiently. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 10:23
  • 1
    So both IN and WITH work in those sentences? The nuance being that IN indicates/emphasizes the quickness of the occurance whilst WITH is more neutral?
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 10:41
  • 2
    @JUNCINATOR Yes. In this example, "with" is neutral, while "in" in may convey some element of surprise or unusualness.
    – Davo
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 11:32
  • 1
    @Davo, thanks :D! And Juncinator, sounds like you had understood it even better than I had explained it :O :D! Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


Just to put Davo's answer in as an answer, with a little more explanation...

In terms of the most essential meaning in this context, "in" and "with" have the same meaning. They both introduce adverbials indicating what it took to do what was done. "He broke the thick sheet of glass" stands as a sentence on its own, but is modified by the adverbial of manner "in one hit" or "with one hit". Both "in" and "with" can have other meanings, but here they introduce the same sort of adverbial. Adverbials of manner tell you how or in what way something is done.

However, as Davo notes, they carry different shades of meaning. "With" is more neutral than "in", as with would be more likely to be used if there is no surprise, and in makes it seem more remarkable. You can also indicate that you consider it remarkable by adding the word "just" - "in just one hit".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .