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In the "Three Little Pigs", the wolf says

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!

  1. Does "in" means "inside"? "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house and inside it?"

  2. Can I say "blow your house out" or "blow your house down"?

I feel that "blow out" or "blow down" is better than "blow in".

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    The story says in which is fine. But generally, we say: the wind blew the house down. You may feel whatever you like but the story is set in stone. If a house is made of straw, one can say blow your house in [from the outside].
    – Lambie
    Apr 18 at 0:34
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    Use is the same sense as the common (UK) schoolboy threat: I'm gonna do you in!
    – fdomn-m
    Apr 18 at 10:54
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    @fdomn-m: British schoolboys can (or at least could, when I was one! :) also bash each other in (or ...up, the preposition doesn't really seem to mean anything). Apr 18 at 12:21
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    I (British English) was surprised to read "blow your house in." It seems to make no sense. I have only heard "blow your house down", which, to me, at least makes sense. "down" is a resultative adjective - "I will blow your house and as a result it will be down." (Compare, "I will shoot you dead.")
    – user81561
    Apr 18 at 18:09
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    The most familiar version of the story to me (American English) is also "blow your house down". The version with "in" sounds weird to me, although I understand what it means. I wouldn't say it that way. ... But as @nschneid points out in their answer, "in" must be used if it's meant to rhyme with "chin". And I do remember that rhyme. So I must have heard both versions before. Apr 18 at 21:15

3 Answers 3

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to blow something in: "in" meaning "inward"

The image I get is that someone is outside, blowing towards the walls of the house. The force of the air is so strong that the walls collapse inwards.

Another expression that involves a structure collapsing inward is "cave in".

to blow (or knock, kick, ...) something down

This generally means the force causes it to fall down, i.e. collapse. You could also say the wolf blew the house down. But it doesn't rhyme with "chin".

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As @Lambie states, one must deal with the text as it is presented. A given passage might be infelicitous, or perhaps downright wrong, so you might wish to make corrections. (BTW, a student in my class found an error in the text, and sent the correction to the publisher. She received a nice letter and a free copy of the text... of the old edition, which still had the misteak [oops] ;-)

That said, usage changes with time. Google's Ngram Viewer reports "blow your house in," was much more common than "blow your house down" in 1920, yet current usage shows exactly the opposite!

[+1 for that question, which provoked my Ngram excursion, with intriguing results!]

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  • The earliest version of the story seems to be James Halliwell-Phillipps from the 1880s; it has "blow your house in". As does Joseph Jacobs, who seems to have copied Halliwell-Phillipps in his 1890 book.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 18 at 12:22
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This usage is valid, but obscure

To "blow something in" suggests causing the thing to implode. Contextually, it implies one or more walls of the house being blown inward, resulting in the collapse of the house. However, I think most modern speakers would find this particular turn of phrase at least a little bit odd. As you note, "blow down" would be more typical. (Another answer points out a rhyme as a possible reason for this wording.)

That said, note that other things can be "<past-tense-verb> in[ward]". For example, a door can be "kicked in" or "blown in" (the latter would imply wind or air-pressure such as from an explosion as the cause). "Blown in" could also apply to just about any covering over some sort of opening.

Can I say "blow your house out"

I would say "no", or at least not in the way you're intending. There are three main uses of "blow out":

  1. Damage caused by air pressure (often due to a sudden increase thereof, or to sudden failure of something containing high pressure) in which part of an object is forced outwards while another part remains. (If all of the object is forced outwards, one would normally say it is "blown up" or "blown apart".)
  2. Forcible ejection of an object by means of air pressure (e.g. wind or an explosion), typically from a surrounding enclosure. For example, some people enjoy blowing potatoes (or similar objects) out of pipes.
  3. Fire being put out by wind (e.g. blowing on a candle).

A door, window, or even wall can be "blown out" in the first sense, as can a tire or speaker, but "blow out" used of an entire house is likely to be one of the other two senses.

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    It's not obscure, like "I'll smash your face in", from Uncle Tom's Cabin till today people say it all the time.
    – DavePhD
    Apr 18 at 20:54
  • @DavePhD, to blow in is fairly rare, especially applied to a house. To kick in or smash in is not obscure. I don't think I said otherwise? And, of course, to screw in or hammer in is not odd in the slightest. 🙂
    – Matthew
    Apr 18 at 22:03
  • "blow your face in" is common too.
    – DavePhD
    Apr 18 at 23:03
  • @DavePhD, I don't think I've ever heard "blow your face in" before today. It is by no means common anywhere I've ever lived, nor in U.S. media of the last several decades. More generally, I'm inclined to agree with Matthew that to "blow something in" is obscure, at least in the States. In fact, I myself know it mainly from The Three Little Pigs, where I found it slightly odd even as a young boy, and still do. Some other uses of "blowing in" seem less odd to my ear, but they're still uncommon. Apr 19 at 14:25
  • @JohnBollinger "blow your face in" is in Sherlock Holmes, Atlantic Monthly, and rap lyrics. I'm from Baltimore and it seems standard to me. genius.com/Chino-xl-kings-lyrics
    – DavePhD
    Apr 19 at 15:49

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