During a game, one player got injured. After he received his first aid, one of the medical staff showed a concern that he might hurt himself more if he continued playing this game.

In the subtitle (this is a non-English TV program), seeing that the player wanted to go back into the game, the medical staff asked,

"Don't you have to push your way in?"

The context is clear. The meaning is also clear: the medical staff doesn't want the player to force himself back into the game to avoid any more serious injury.

However, that "in" seems a little odd to me. I've heard push oneself, or push one's way through, but never push one's way in. It wouldn't sound as odd if the subtitle was instead "You don't have to push yourself," or "You don't have to force yourself back in/into the game."

Is this "push one's way in" a good usage?

To provide more context, it's a basketball game. The player is a forward (possibly a small forward, I'm not sure, but judging from his body he should be the small forward rather than the power forward). Here are a few relevant scenes during the game,

Out of screen #1: Aren't you going to play?
Player: I should.
Out of screen #2: Don't you have to push your way in?
[the scene was cut back to the game]

NOTE: I'm not sure if those "out of screen" voices were the same person. It might be the same person, but again it might not. (The stadium was very noisy.) I simply guess from the context that the "out of screen" #2 was the medic.

After a while, the camera was back on the player receiving his first aid from a medic,

Player: It was on my way down from a jump.
Medic: [make an acknowledge sound]
Player: I was surprised.
Player: (after maybe five seconds) How is the game going?
Player: (after a few more seconds) What's the score right now?
[the scene was cut back to the game]

After another while, seeing the other team is taking the lead,

Player: (mumbling to himself) I should play.
[the scene was changed to show him walking back to join his friends at the bench, and soon he was on the court]

PS. I hope that his injury is not anything serious, and he will get well soon.

  • 2
    If your meaning is correct, then it sounds odd to me, too. I can imagine pushing my way into a crowded subway train, or pushing my way through a busy crowd, but not "pushing my way in" meaning "into a game." It's not just the preposition at fault, but the combination of "pushing .. in".
    – J.R.
    Dec 11, 2013 at 14:10
  • My thought would be that since pushing your way in to a game is indeed strange, that must not be what they're talking about. I don't think he's pushing/forcing himself back into the game. It's more likely that either in the process of getting back in the game or one of the first things he'd have to do after getting back in is to push himself into/through something and that the medic probably said something like, "You'll be okay, it's a mild tear, you're okay to walk, but don't try to push up against anything or you'll really destroy it."
    – Jim
    Dec 11, 2013 at 17:47
  • @Jim your comment on "push up against anything" makes me think it might be possible to mean "push his way in (through the opponents)". Does that make any sense? Dec 11, 2013 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


[verb] one's way {{in | into | to } [target] | through [hindrance/obstacle]}

is a general pattern where you can substitute different verbs, like "force", "claw", "push", "work", "beg", or really anything that is clearly understandable in the context.

It means, roughly, "Attaining [target] by [verb]-ing, thereby creating a path or entry into [target] (or through [obstacle]) for oneself, where a path or entry wasn't available."

The worm cheerfully munched its way right to the center of the apple. [There was no path to the center of the apple; the worm created one for itself by eating.]

She slept her way into the movie industry. [She had sex with directors or producers in exchange for getting roles in films, thereby creating a way into the industry that was not otherwise available.]

The usage "don't you have to push your way in" is clear: "don't you have to get into the game by means of creating an entry for yourself via pushing?"

"in" is correct, because that's the preposition that is used for indicating participation in a game: being "in the game".

"Push" is also appropriate, because it has figurative meanings, one of which is forcing or asserting oneself. (E.g. an overly assertive person is called "pushy" and "pushes around" other people).

  • I just want a final confirmation. Does this mean that "[you] have to push your way in" in this context means "have to push your way back into the game"? This "push your way" means "create your way by pushing yourself", and has nothing to do with "pushing against teammates" or "pushing against the other team", am I correct? Dec 12, 2013 at 7:16
  • @DamkerngT Yes, "into" becomes "in" when the complement word is elided. "Did you get into the building?" "No, I couldn't get {in | *into | into it}."
    – Kaz
    Dec 12, 2013 at 16:17
  • @DamkerngT. The pushing almost certainly has to do with producing an effort against some external obstacle. Just like the worm eating its way through the apple is not eating itself. To be honest, I don't understand why a player would have to push his way into the game, and then once in the game, be spared from further pushing and shoving.
    – Kaz
    Dec 12, 2013 at 16:22

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