The cause of my guilt is the amount of food I keep throwing away. A pile of leftover pasta, the uneaten salmon from my daughter’s plate, some expired tofu discovered at the back of the fridge – in it all goes. It sits there in a heap on top of the plastic packaging in which most of the food came wrapped.

Source: New Scientist

Does "in it all goes" mean "in the fridge, the tofu becomes all decayed"?

  • 2
    notice "keep throwing away". the "in it all goes" catches up with that concept.
    – Fattie
    Sep 28 at 3:40
  • I haven't heard this. I'm assuming it's a British phrase. Sep 29 at 15:55
  • The meaning becomes apparent in the following paragraph: It [the food waste] might be a modest heap in my kitchen bin, but, worldwide, food waste is a problem of supersized proportions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 29 at 17:34

No, "in it all goes" has nothing to do with the fridge.

Here "it" the subject of the clause. The word order has been tweaked and the indirect object has been elided. The meaning is:

The food [subject] all [adverbial intensifier] goes [verb] in to the trash can [indirect object].

which has been rearranged to read:

in to the trash can the food all goes.

"It" is a pronoun replacing "the food which has been listed previously" (leftover pasta, uneaten salmon, and expired tofu) and "to the trash can" is implied rather than stated explicitly.

You can tell that the author is talking about things going in to the trash can because they mention that "it" (the food) "sits on top of the plastic packaging in which it came," that is, the packaging was placed in the trash can and then the food was placed on top of the discarded packaging.

  • 2
    "into" is a single word.
    – Barmar
    Sep 28 at 14:41
  • 3
    @Barmar very true. I split it up in this answer because the source used only the word "in" and I wanted to show how the rest of the sentence was removed. But you are correct, the full sentence (if it had been written out) should be "...goes into the trash can."
    – randomhead
    Sep 28 at 15:59
  • Correct, but not 'trash can'; heap. While conceptually the same, the heap is specified in the text, so probably should be used to assist in making the connection to 'in'.
    – mcalex
    Sep 28 at 18:34
  • 1
    @mcalex It goes into the trash can, in the shape of a heap.
    – amalloy
    Sep 28 at 22:31
  • @amalloy, well the kitchen bin, actually (according to the full passage), but my point is the heap is stated explicitly in the text; you don't have to find implied objects. IMO, without that reference to the heap being present, the passage would be awkward and a more correct idiom would be 'Out it all goes'
    – mcalex
    Sep 30 at 4:06

It means, "... it all goes in" in this case, the food all goes into the garbage, and it's good grammar.

It's a narrative style that adds some dramatic feeling to statements.

"We lit the fuse on the rocket, and up it shot!"
"Onwards they strode, though the snow was deep."
"Into the monster's eyes she did not dare look."

In this structure, an adverbial of direction shifts to the front of the clause.

While any kind of dramatic storytelling can include this structure, it's a hallmark of songs, stories and rhymes for children.

It cannot be applied to all adverbials of direction though. As I mentioned above, it only works with statements, that's to say, sentences that describe something, rather than perform some other function. So, while this is correct:

"Upstairs he whisked her bags." (statement)

The following sentences are incorrect because they are not statements:

*"Upstairs let me take your bags." (offer)
*"Upstairs will you take my bags?" (question)
*"Upstairs take her bags." (command)

To better understand the "dramatic" meaning in this particular sentence, read Owen Reynolds's excellent answer on this page.

  • 2
    And laying his finger aside of his nose, / And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; / He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, / And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
    – randomhead
    Sep 28 at 3:34
  • @randomhead You can also highlight "to his team gave a whistle", no?
    – gotube
    Sep 28 at 3:40
  • True! You can find an example in pretty much every other line of that piece.
    – randomhead
    Sep 28 at 3:43
  • Oh English, you so crazy...
    – barbecue
    Sep 28 at 18:15

"in it goes" means everything is grabbed indiscriminately, without much thought. It always has a form like: "my mom makes meatloaf to get rid of all left-overs at once -- [list of food that shouldn't be in meatloaf] -- in it goes". The last part lets us know this isn't a recipe -- she's tossing all that stuff in the meatloaf without even looking at it, simply because it was there.

More generally, we start sentences with "in" or "up" or "out" to mean quickly done without thinking or discussion. You might say "in you go" while pushing your child into the car, or "up you go" when lifting a small child into a high-chair, or "out with it" to mean to stop stalling and get to the point. If someone was helping you move and asked "what about this broken chair?" you might say "in the truck", meaning "I don't want to think about it now -- just load everything". "in it goes" has the same sense of "don't think, just do it".

Like you, I thought the food-throwing-away quote was confusing. I also wondered if they meant it all goes in the refrigerator. I had to read it twice. Instead of "in it all goes" I'd have written "in the trash" or "toss it", or changed the last to "it sits there in the trash...".

  • A British person would say 'into the bin' or 'it sits there among the rubbish'. Sep 29 at 16:46

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