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I placed the cake in the fridge.

I placed the cake into the fridge.

Is into more formal? To me in is sufficient because the movement of the cake into the fridge is implied, but I wonder whether in formal writing, into would be more appropriate.

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  • No, it's not more formal. But it can mean something different.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 0:07
  • 2
    Short answer: I would "never" say or write: I placed the cake into the fridge. But I would say: I pushed the cake into the oven, into the fridge. To push or shove something into something. To place something on something or in something.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 23:53
  • What @Lambie said. I can't explain exactly why, but whereas put it in [something], put it into,and place it in all sound reasonable in many contexts, place it into doesn't work so well - as implied by this NGram showing relative prevalence. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 15:23
  • My problem with ngrams is that you can't teach, edit or translate using them, and they are all activities I engage in regularly. So...
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 15:30
  • @Lambie: That's why I said I can't explain exactly why, and why I've only commented rather than answering. There's no doubt in my mind that the preference is real (I hadn't even thought of checking NGrams until after I'd already typed up to place it into doesn't work so well above, but it came back exactly as I expected). I'm guessing DJClayworth is onto it though. Consider He put an X into the checkbox - that probably sounds lousy because the X doesn't exist beforehand, so there's no "movement". But does this cover all cases? I dunno. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 15:47

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Neither is more formal, although 'into' is less common and therefore can give the impression of being more formal.

'Into' is used for movement, and while 'in' is acceptable (since as you say the movement is implied) 'into' places the emphasis on the movement and 'in' places it on the final position.

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  • I'm tentatively on board with this, but I wonder how universal the principle is. Should we consider His first school shoes were too big, but he grew into them by the second term a "phrasal verb" usage? I can't really see even any metaphorical movement there. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 15:51

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