In the following sentence:

James made a hole in the bottom of a bucket.

Why using in preposition, while not talking about inside of an object?


Because in has many more meanings than inside of. (Whoever told you that in means inside of only told you half of the story. Check that – only told you about a tenth of the story!)

In their first definition of in, Cambridge lists several examples, including these:

Put the milk back in the fridge.
Is Mark still in bed?
I got stuck in a traffic jam for half an hour.
They live in a charming old cottage.
I've got a pain in my back.
How much is that coat on display in the window (= in the space behind the window of the shop)?
I've got something in (= on the surface of) my eye.

It's that last one that solves your mystery: the word in can be used to mean on the surface of. That's why we can say things like:

The iceberg cut a gash in the hull of the ship.
That pool table has a tear in the felt – no wonder they're only asking fifty dollars for it.
I just slipped in the mud; now I have a stain on my sleeve and a rip in my pants.
Dear Eliza, there's a hole in the bucket.

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