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What is the difference between prodding and poking? According to the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary, their senses are almost the same.

Prod- to push sb/sth finger or with a pointed object

Poke- to quickly push your fingers or another object into sb/sth

But I've found sentences where both prod and poke were used together. For example, He was looking at her closely through his half-moon spectacles, his long fingers gently prodding and poking.

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They may have been used together, not because their meanings are different, but because their meanings are very similar, so the words either reinforce or complement each other.

You'll find these every now and then in English, with the paired-up words often beginning with the same letter. Some common examples include:

  • vigor and vim
  • short and sweet
  • pots and pans
  • trials and tribulations
  • zig and zag

In fact, words pairs like these even have a name: Siamese twins. You can read about them in Wikipedia.

So, it could be that the words are used together by design for emphasis, even though the writer could just use one or the other.

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They are sometimes interchangeable. In my opinion, the only difference is that "poke" refers to a very specific action, which is when you push someone or something with the tip of a sharp object. If you jab someone with your finger, you are poking them.

Prodding can be more gentle. It could be pushing someone with your whole hand instead of just your finger.

They are often interchangeable, but there are certain times when I would only one or the other.

For example, "the nurse poked me with the needle" only makes sense with "poke."

Also, "I prodded the cat off the table" is more accurate than "I poked the cat off the table," which to me would mean that I pushed one finger into the cat until it left the table. More likely, I gently pushed (prodded) the cat.

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I have found out that the use of both can mean "examine carefully" (as a doctor does in a health check or as your family do when they meet your boyfriend for the first time, in a more figurative sense).

  • I had a chance to poke and prod the SUV model, and drive the sport truck.

    I've been poked and prodded by most of your family now.

    He examined me silently, poking and prodding. Then he stood and stepped aside, leaving me.

But it can also be used meaning to forcefully encourage someone to do something.

  • My mother poked and prodded my brother to spend more time studying for exams*.

    Lisa has poked and prodded Marta to find out who she likes.

  • Please provide your sources for the meanings. That will improve the credibility of the answer. – AIQ Sep 27 at 6:54

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