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In the context of submitting your work to your boss, which is the right phrase to use 'turn in' or 'hand in'? And why? And how are they used differently in other contexts?

Examples:

  1. "He always hands in his work late."
  2. "He always turns in his work late."
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    Which dictionaries did you check? What specific thing(s) about the definitions that you found caused you trouble? The Oxford dictionary and many others have phrasal verbs and figures of speech--and example sentences.
    – user6951
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:35
  • @pazzo: your link seems broken?
    – Stephie
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 15:18
  • Oxford dictionary or thefreedictionary, or: Onelook dictionary, which returns results from over a dozen dictionaries..
    – user6951
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 15:29
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    Of the top of my head (as an AmE speaker), I'd think that those two usages are in competition with each other, which means that there is a large amount of overlap in usage. There probably are some specific contexts where only one or the other is acceptable. Acceptability might also depend on regional and/or register and/or style considerations. "Hands in" might sometimes have a personal or physical connotation to it, while "Turns in" might be more of a general expression. Maybe someone will write an answer that dives in more deeply into this. :)
    – F.E.
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 15:45

2 Answers 2

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In British English, the correct phrase is hand in.

From Macmillan dictionary:

hand in

phrasal verb (transitive)

  1. to give something to a person in authority
    Please hand in your keys when you leave the hotel.
    All essays must be handed in by Tuesday.

In American English, you can use either hand in, or turn in:

turn in

phrasal verb

ᴍᴀɪɴʟʏ ᴀᴍᴇʀɪᴄᴀɴ

  1. to give something to the person who has officially asked for it or who is in charge
    turn in something to someone: Mitro turned in his resignation to the President.

There is a subtle difference between the two - you can turn something in only if it has been specifically asked for (you wouldn't normally talk about turning in your keys as in the "hand in" example, unless perhaps you mistakenly ran off with them and needed to turn them in later) or you are giving the thing to a superior.

So, for example:

  • Please turn in all borrowed equipment
  • When I found a stranger's wallet on the street, I handed it in
  • I have done my homework, and turned it in
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    Downvoter please turn yourself in ;) Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:33
  • -1 The ODO British & World English dictionary says otherwise.
    – user6951
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:36
  • @pazzo? As a native BrE speaker, my first thought was "turn in sounds American" before I went and found a corroborating source. Perhaps if you link to the place it says something different (and explain which "otherwise" you mean!), we could clear this up the confusion? Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:38
  • Yes, ODO BrE has for both give something to someone in authority.
    – user6951
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:44
  • @pazzo I'm not sure if this is the dictionary you mean when you simply say "ODO BrE" (it was the top result when I Googled for it, but it has the wrong initials), but the only definition it lists for turn in is to go to bed for the night. Commented May 8, 2015 at 14:49
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Macmillan Dictionary says that both have one common meaning.

turn in

to give something to the person who has officially asked for it or who is in charge

and...

hand in

to give something to a person in authority

If you see the subtlety, the former one is used when someone has asked you for something, as in your example. The boss has asked you for that work.

In the latter example, you give something to a person in authority--say--your resignation. They did not ask it, but you submitted and submitted to the higher authority.

Said that, if we go by MM, 'turn in' fits in your example. Because it talks about the tasks were allotted to the employees 'he' and 'she'.

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