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I have some question about the possible equivalence of "in", "inside", and "within" in the following sentences:

  1. There was disagreement in the committee.
  2. There was disagreement inside the committee.
  3. There was disagreement within the committee.

Are the three sentences the same, or do "in", "inside" and "within" bring out some differences?

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2 Answers 2

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As a native US English speaker, sentences #1 and #3 sound fine to me and essentially equivalent. Sentence #2 sounds a little unusual -- I understand what it is saying, but it's not the way I would say it. Sentence #3 probably sounds the most natural.

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  • Defintion 4 for "within" of this dictionary reads: inside a society, organization, or group of people. So, "inside a committee" seems okay according to that dictionary. But that dictionary is British-themed. Maybe it is a British usage?
    – meatie
    Jul 29, 2015 at 17:00
  • Could be BrE, "inside" usually refers to physical objects being inside other physical objects (at least in AmE).
    – Will
    Jul 29, 2015 at 17:05
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While all three would be understood, the third definitely sounds the best.

A way to reword the first two would be to use the plural "disagreements"

There were disagreements in the committee

The second could be restructured in the same way, though "inside" sounds i bit out of place there.

By using the plural (were disagreements) rather than the mass singular (was disagreement), it sounds more like individual issues causing disagreement.

On the other hand, "There was disagreement" makes it sound more serious, as if people on the committee were generally disagreeing with one another (about everything), rather than over something specific (just one or two issues).

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