In this following context, what does the verb phrase 'work...in'' mean?

Is the difinition of ''work something in'': ''try to include or incorporate something in a text or speech.'' suitable for this verb phrase?


Neither gifts to priests, nor self-castigation, nor performance of rites and ceremonies can work purification in him who is filled with craving.

Source: p. 5 Fundamentals of Buddhism by Nyanatiloka Mahåthera

  • 1
    "...can be effective in purifying the person who is filled with craving". Jun 24 at 8:13
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    It's not a very good translation, imho. Even as a nonce term, I don't really think to work purification [in X] is an acceptable "phrasal verb" for the sense to have a purifying effect [on X]. Jun 24 at 11:09
  • I’m voting to close this question because it's about a non-idiomatic usage in a poor translation Jun 24 at 11:09
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    Not a verb phrase, but simply the standard words "work" and "in". The intended meaning of "work" here is "effectuate", but the whole sentence should probably be reorganized into a better translation somehow.
    – Sam
    Jun 24 at 13:25
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    It's the word "work" and the word "in" separately. There's no joined meaning "work...in". "In" is just the preposition that correlates with "work" to indicate the object of the work.
    – gotube
    Jun 24 at 17:10

2 Answers 2


To my understanding, to work something in refers to doing something upon an object. The object receives the action that is being done, or worked into it.


"work in" as a phrasal verb can mean (and could mean in this context) "To cause to penetrate" (Chambers). Although I agree that the quote is not particularly good English, so I wouldn't necessarily trust the translation. This meaning is used in recipes frequently, e.g. "Mix together to form a dough and work in the butter."

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