5

I'm new to this town.

I'm new in this town.

What's the difference between the two sentences meaning-wise?

  • 1
    In practice the two versions are pretty much equivalent - some native speakers might be more likely to use one than the other, but I doubt many of their audience / readership would draw any inference whichever preposition was used. I you wanted to "force" a distinction, arguably using to is somewhat more "outgoing, confident, ego-centred". It more strongly implies that the speaker is a new person for the whole town to get used to (rather than the other way round; speaker is a single person who has to get used to the new town, which might not even particularly notice his arrival). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 16 '18 at 17:12
  • 1
    If you're using in, it's more idiomatic to say, "I'm new in town," without using the word "this." – Canadian Yankee Mar 16 '18 at 17:16
4

When you are new to something, you are a beginner at it. So to say that you are new to this town means that the town is something to be learned. You are just learning about the town and its ways, only beginning to acquire the knowledge and skills required to make your way in the town, to be a success there.

A singer might say of Nashville:

I'm new to this town.

and thereby mean that there are things a singer must learn in order to succeed in Nashville.

A newly elected member of the House of Representatives might say of Washington DC:

I'm new to this town.

and mean much the same thing.

When we are new in a place, we are newly arrived there.

P.S. to can impart to "new" the connotations of "inexperience" by virtue of the fact that the collocation new to is very frequently used in contexts where the speaker wants to express not merely the idea of novelty but the idea of novice or neophyte.

She was new to archery.

She was new to programming.

Elected to her first term, she was new to politics.

Those endeavors are not merely novelties for her; she is a beginner at them.

She was new to the big city.

The pattern puts "the big city" in the semantic role of "thing-to-be-learned".

P.P.S. Consider that we would not say:

She was new to the taste. unidiomatic or marginal at best

but

The taste was new to her.

P.P.P.S. But that is not to say that new to the taste is impossible. Consider a discussion of so-called "acquired tastes", tastes that most people don't like but some come to enjoy.

You're new to the taste. Sure, it smells putrid and is covered with strange-looking mold. But give it time. You may come to like it.

  • It's intriguing how your answer and FumbleFingers' comment seem to diverge on the nuances. Although I think it might have to do with personal perception of phrases, I also think it might help OP (and frankly, me as well) if your answer addressed this difference. – Eddie Kal Mar 16 '18 at 17:30
  • The "to" version places a little more emphasis on your unfamiliarity with the town while the "in" version places a little more on your recent arrival, implying that you are living there now more strongly than the first version. However, the differences are subtle enough to make the two versions practically interchangeable, hence FF's answer. Also consider that these phrases are usually from casual speech, so less attention is paid to exact meanings in practice. – Stew C Mar 17 '18 at 1:15
  • @L. Moneta: I will add a P.S. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 17 '18 at 11:25

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