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Mr. Johnson has been taken in for more than 20 years by this con artist.

Does this mean that this con artist has been duping Mr. Johnson for 20 years?

  • yes, exactly. – Jim Jan 16 '14 at 4:26
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    Most likely so, but of course it depends on context. If the con artist bilks people out of their investments, but has rented a room to Mr. Johnson for the past two decades, the sentence could mean something different. (This isn't likely, but it might be worth mentioning. A phrase like take in doesn't always mean the same thing every time those two words are used together.) – J.R. Jan 17 '14 at 1:12
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"Take in" is a Phrasal Verb that means to deceive or swindle.

So the sentence:

Mr. Johnson has been taken in for more than 20 years by this con artist.

is similar in meaning to

Mr. Johnson has been deceived for more than 20 years by this con artist.

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As a trivial aside, you get your pants or a dress "taken in", when you take them to the tailor, and have them made tighter at the waist.

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Yes. "Taken in" is an idiom in this context.

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    I think this term comes from the fact that these kinds of cons were known as confidence schemes and those that practiced it were confidence men or con men. These men would pretend to "take you into their confidence" by telling you information that was designed to make you want to hand over your money. You were said to be taken in when you believed what they were telling you. If you remained skeptical, then you were not taken in by the con. – Jim Jan 16 '14 at 6:12

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