I have come across the phrase 'to tap into sth/sb' many times.When I look it up, dictionaries says it means 'to make use of sth/sb'. I'd like to make sure I understood them right.

Does 'to tap into something or somebody ' imply take advantage of something or somebody and little bit exploit their workforce giving little in return Or just use something/somebody or it can be used in both sense?

For example :

For instance, local media publish stories in the business section of newspapers on tapping into the skilled migrant pool.

UK and US publications have found trying to tap other English speaking markets.

Can I use it without causing any misunderstanding?

Can I say in order say that "I just want to work with new graduates in my company" with the following sentence?

I would like to tap into new graduates in this country for my company?

What is the difference between the following sentences in terms meaning they imply?

Can you make use of these papers?

Can you use these papers?

Does the first sentence mean like ' Can you use these papers in a efficient way? '

  • 1
    'Tap into' comes from the idea that you have a large barrel of beer/wine/alcohol that you put (tap with a hammer) a spiggot (a device to allow one to control how fast the contents comeout) onto to allow you to pour out its contents. To tap into a resource then is to take a source that has not yet been used and to pour its contents into your own projects... for consumption. 'Tapping into the new graduates in this country' feels ever so slightly offensive as it is treating people as a resource that can be consumed, so I would be careful of this usage. Jun 10, 2015 at 23:37
  • Your second question, I read identically, either way. Jun 10, 2015 at 23:39
  • @Mrt I read the title as a three-way comparison (of “to tap (into)”, “ to make use of”, and “to use”), but in your question, you ask two different questions (one is about using "to tap (into)" for "to work with"; and the other is "to make use of" vs. "to use"). Jun 11, 2015 at 6:31
  • @DamkerngT. Thanks for your comment.Yes there are similar two questions related to the same words. When I looked "to tap" up on the dictionary, I came across "to make use of..." . I would like to know if they connote any offensive sense and what is the difference between them ?
    – Mrt
    Jun 11, 2015 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


To use X - X here has to be a tool, and to use X will mean do an activity where X will help or is needed to accomplish that activity. E.g.: Use the pen to write down what I say. A pen is a tool that is needed to accomplish writing.

To make use of X - This is like to use X except that X is not necessarily needed to complete the activity in question, but it will help. E.g.: Feel free to make use of anything in my spice rack when you start cooking. The spices might help, but aren't strictly required.

To tap into X - A physical tap is something that allows one to draw out or extract water, liquid, or other similar resource from a stream, network, or container. Following this logic, tapping into something can mean attempting to draw out or extract something needed (from someone) that can help you complete an activity, and this something will not be a physical object but a mental resource such as knowledge, skill, social connections, etc. Tap into your customer service skills when dealing with difficult requests.

So ...

A market in my opinion at least, that can be tapped into. Graduates would more likely be something made use of unless your location is starved for the skills of this specific group of graduates. Tap into X somewhat carries the subtext of X is needed by us but not vice versa.


Can you make use of these papers?

Can you use these papers?

The difference in meaning depends on what the papers contain and how useful they are to the person you are offering to them. If you think they will help, but aren't required, make use of is appropriate. If you think they are needed by him to accomplish his task, use is appropriate.

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