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I have this question about the interchangeability of "fall into" and "go into":

  1. The airplane fell/went into a tailspin.
  2. The economy fell/went into a decline.
  3. He fell/went into a depression.
  4. He fell/went into some bad habits.

Is "fall" or "go" not appropriate in some of the sentences?

  • 4
    4 would not use "went" it would probably use "fell" or "got". The rest are fine. – Catija Jul 31 '15 at 7:09
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Sentence 1: Either way works. No difference in meaning. An airplane can literally "go" or "fall"_ downward_.

Sentence 2: Either way works. In this case, the economy went or fell downward figuratively (to a worse condition).

Note that in both 1 and 2, the subjects (airplane or economy) are inanimate, so there is no question of intent or volition.

Sentence 3: Either works, but "fell" could be seen as attributing the depression to outside forces, whereas "went" would not, because it implies the person is assumed to have some choice in the matter (less or more, depending on whether the speaker sees depression as a disease or as a failure to try to keep a positive attitude.))

Sentence 4: "Fell", as in #3, implies that the habits happened to him, not by his desire, but perhaps because of inaction, or of being in a bad place (among friends who used drugs, for example). This minimizes his blame in the matter. It wasn't really his fault; he just "fell". We might even say he fell in with a bad crowd, and [consequently] picked up some bad habits (like falling on the ground, and "picking up" dirt on one's pants.) Thus he is exonerated, in the eyes of the speaker. (If it's his mom speaking, that's what she'll claim at his trial.)

But if he "went into some bad habits", that would imply that he intentionally sought them out. And we wouldn't say it that way!

We might say he acquired some bad habits, or he got into some bad habits. These are not exculpatory, as the above, but both are neutral—that is, non-judgemental.

But, If we wanted to put blame on him, we might say, for instance "He has taken up smoking. (or, more antiquatedly, "He has taken to smoking") That is, the speaker thinks that he could have refrained, but that he chose to "take" the habit.

So you see that "went" vs. "fell" doesn't matter with regard to things, but it can matter, in subtle ways, in regard to people.

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Well "falling" is a type of "going". It implies motion; movement, change.

You could use other words as well.

The European nations sleepwalked into war.

The patient slipped into a coma.

The drunk man slumped into a stupor.

So the defining aspect is [verb] [preposition] [noun]

"into" is typically the correct preposition, but occasionally, depending on context, other may work as well (or even better).

Finally, to really answer you question, "to fall" usually has negative connotations, while "to go" or "to become" are far more neutral. This is one of the reasons why you would be more likely to say "I fell into depression" than "I went into depression".

  • I would also add that "went" implies volition on the part of the one going, while "fell" implies accidental. So when you say someone "fell into some bad habits" you are subtly absolving them of guilt for their bad habits. "Got into some bad habits" (I wouldn't use "went" there) puts more blame on the subject. – TBridges42 Jul 31 '15 at 13:53
  • So, "go into some habits" is standard English? – meatie Jul 31 '15 at 18:40
  • @meatie you can say "he got into some bad habits" or "he is getting into some bad habits" equally "he fell into some bad habits" or "he is falling into some bad habits". However, things like "he goes into some habits", "he went into some habits", "he is going into some habits" are all incorrect. – Stumbler Aug 1 '15 at 13:11
  • So, in sentences 1, 2, and 3, the usages of "fall into" and "go into" are standard English? – meatie Aug 2 '15 at 1:22
  • All of your examples are about proceeding to a presumably WORSE situation. That is why "fell" is appropriate (actual downward motion, like the airplane, or a metaphorical fall, to a worse condition) It is rare to say someone or something "fell" into a BETTER situation. – Brian Hitchcock Aug 2 '15 at 9:51

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