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Which of the following sentences is correct, and why?

  • "Put your hands in your pockets."
  • "Put your hands into your pockets."
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    Are these sentences intended to be, for example, instructions to a child on a cold day, or requests made by a master of ceremonies at a fundraiser? Would it make any difference?
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 21:35
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    Possible duplicate of Usage of into vs in vs inside Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:25

4 Answers 4

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As per this Cambridge Dictionaries page,

We use in to talk about where something is in relation to a larger area around it:

A: Where’s Jane?
B: She’s in the garden.

I’ve left my keys in the car.

We use into to talk about the movement of something, usually with a verb that expresses movement (e.g. go, come). It shows where something is or was going:

A: Where’s Jane?
B: She’s gone into the house.

Helen came into the room.

Compare:

She’s gone for a walk in the garden. (She is in the garden walking.) She walked into the garden. (She entered the garden.)

With some verbs (e.g. put, fall, jump, dive) we can use either in or into with no difference in meaning:

Can you put the milk in/into the fridge? Her keys fell in/into the canal.

However, even with a verb like put, some additional context can favor the use of one preposition over the other:

  • I put my hands in/into my pockets to keep them warm.
  • Slowly, he put his hand into his pocket and snuck out a folding knife.

In the second example, we're placing emphasis on the movement of the hand, so into appears to be more appropriate than just in.

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    I think this is the better answer.
    – minseong
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 11:50
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    Yes, the "in your pockets" stresses the end result. The hands end up in your pocket. The "into your pocket" stress the action itself of the hands going into the pocket.
    – chadbag
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 16:58
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    "I put my hands into my pockets to keep them warm. -- Slowly, he put his hand in his pocket and snuck out a folding knife." I think it is more of an element of style/personality rather than intended nuanced meaning.
    – zoplonix
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 22:31
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    Anecdotally, "put your hands into your pockets" sounds odd to me. Googling "into your pockets" and "hands into your pockets" brings up this page as the first result, which seems to back this up somewhat. Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 22:58
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    @KyleS - I searched for put your hands in your pockets and put your hands into your pockets on Google books. Both queries returned roughly the same number of hits and provided several dozen examples. I think the "into stresses the motion" argument may be true, but the nuance is so slight that more people don't really think much about it one way or the other until asked to analyze a question like this one. Compare: Never put your hands into your pockets, and jingling of keys and coins is a great distraction. vs. Do not put your hands in your pockets, keep them free to gesture.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 9:59
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Which of these sentences is correct?

"Put your hands in your pockets."
"Put your hands into your pockets."

Answer: Both sentences are acceptable and correct.

Why?

Because prepositions are flexible words with multiple meanings. Also, there are many cases where more than one preposition will work just fine.

Check out the Ngram. You'll see that both phrases are in use.

Here's another example:

  • He pulled a coin from his pocket.
  • He pulled a coin out of his pocket.

Both are acceptable, both mean the same thing, and both are in use.

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    +1, but not the slightest nuance of meaning between the two? I put my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. -- Slowly, he put his hand into his pocket and snuck out a folding knife.
    – Færd
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 10:35
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    @Fard - You should flesh that out into an answer, and explain how some additional context might make one preposition more appropriate than the other. (My answer is mostly points out that, without that additional context, either one could be regarded as correct.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 12:41
  • @Fard Did you seriously sneak a snuck into that sentence? Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 16:27
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    @Gandalf Well, I went by Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I guess it can pass as informal American, at least.
    – Færd
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:41
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    @Gandalf and Fard. I speak American English and didn't flinch the use of snuck. To me sneaked sounds weird. Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 3:44
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He jumped into the river. He jumped in the river. The first one is correct because the stress is on the movement and on the change of position from outside to inside, as we cannot say that he is swimming into the river, we will use ' in' instead. So the sentence " He put hands into his pockets" will be markedly correct.

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The word "in" can mean:

  • "inside" (unchanging position)
  • "into" (changing position from outside to inside)

Put your hands in your pockets = Put your hands into your pockets

Your hands are now in your pockets = Your hands are now inside your pockets

So both of your sentences are correct and mean the same thing, but using "in" here is more common.

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