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Can I use 'feel' to say that I was searching with my hands?
I heard a native say this:

"He felt in his pockets for some money."

But could I have said:

"He felt his pockets for some money."

And I also heard a native say this but do I have to use 'about' here, after 'feel'?

"I had to feel about in the dark for the light switch."

3 Answers 3

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You can feel your pockets for things (keys. money, etc) from outside your clothes, and some people might say 'pat your pockets'. Police officers, security guards, etc, may 'pat people down' to find out if they have anything suspicious. I would say that I feel in my pockets or e.g. a bag if I actually put my hand inside the place and feel around with my fingers for something. Adding 'about' or 'around' is optional and may be used to emphasise that the feeling was done over an area rather than just one place.

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  • Yeah, the around part implies searching in different places or over an area. It's usually used when you're not sure where something would be, or if you're trying to make sense of a space and the things in it by touch. Jan 1, 2021 at 18:48
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Feel for is a phrasal verb used when one blindly/uncertainly searches for something by feeling, usually with their hands.

To feel about/around/round just stresses the absence of a clear direction or order.

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    If you put your hand somewhere and feel about, that just means you make your fingers search every part of the location, perhaps moving your hand too. Jan 1, 2021 at 15:34
  • "I felt for my keys in my pocket" would be quite idiomatic.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 2, 2021 at 1:43
  • I don't think it's a phrase verb. "Phrasal verb" is more specific than just a verb and proposition that are often collocated. Jan 2, 2021 at 2:14
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You could also "grope" or "grope around" in the dark for a light switch. "Grope" implies an element of exploration, so you could grope around in a purse or a backback, but I don't think I'd use it for checking a single normal-size pocket.

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