Reading a book, I noticed the verbs "tuck", "thrust" and "shove" had been used interchangeably. So as far as I got it, they all means:

to put something into a compartment/pocket/etc, to give something into someone's hands and things like that.

So I'm wondering are there any subtle differences between these words? May I use them interchangeably and when I can't do it anyway?

  • It would be helpful if you added some examples you found using the words to your question. The appropriate definitions and any differences in them would better reflect what you are reading. – user3169 Aug 22 '18 at 3:02

Tuck means to move something flappy under an edge so it doesn't flap anymore. For example, you can tuck your shirt under your belt.

Thrust means to make move forward or inward in a straight line, typically quickly or with force, and often implying a stabbing or "stab-like" motion.

Shove means to push something forward or inward, typically with force. This does not imply a stabbing or "stab-like" motion, and the motion does not have to be in a straight line.

Tuck is more about making sure something doesn't move even though it describes the movement of an object. Thrust and shove are typically used to express moving something with force.

They are not interchangeable without being in a context that allows figurative uses such as stories.

  • 1
    You can tuck/shove/thrust your hands into your pockets though, or tuck away some money for a rainy day. Without knowing more about where the author saw these terms, this is a difficult question to answer. – ColleenV Aug 21 '18 at 13:11
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    It won't necessarily be explicitly flagged up by dictionary definitions, but I think it's worth pointing out that shove is strongly associated with vigorously moving something by sliding it across a horizontal surface (cf shove ha'penny and shoving off a boat). – FumbleFingers Aug 21 '18 at 13:16
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    @FumbleFingers I disagree that a shove is usually horizontal- “She shoved a bunch of chocolates in her mouth and bolted for the door.” Or “He shoved a bunch of clothes in a bag and went on a last minute trip.” There are multiple senses of these words. – ColleenV Aug 21 '18 at 13:28
  • Would I be right to add that when you tuck something, you do it carefully or firmly, neatly, gently etc., whereas you thrust quickly, suddenly, hard and shove either roughly and forcefully or playfully and gently? – Victor B. Aug 21 '18 at 18:12
  • @Rompey, pretty much. A non-neat "tuck" would be "stuffing it in/under" versus "tucking it". A slow or gentle thrust is a poke, and a light shove is a push. – LawrenceC Aug 22 '18 at 12:38

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