14

Which of the following sentences is correct, and why?

  • "Put your hands in your pockets."
  • "Put your hands into your pockets."
  • 1
    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 Mar 17 '16 at 21:35
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Usage of into vs in vs inside – FumbleFingers Jul 6 '16 at 21:25
21

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.

  • 1
    I think this is the better answer. – theonlygusti Mar 11 '16 at 11:50
  • 3
    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 Mar 11 '16 at 16:58
  • 2
    "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. – user1886419 Mar 11 '16 at 22:31
  • 1
    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. – Kyle Strand Mar 11 '16 at 22:58
  • 1
    @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. Mar 12 '16 at 9:59
17

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.

  • 4
    +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 Mar 11 '16 at 10:35
  • 1
    @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. Mar 11 '16 at 12:41
  • @Fard Did you seriously sneak a snuck into that sentence? – Cascabel Mar 11 '16 at 16:27
  • 2
    @Gandalf Well, I went by Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I guess it can pass as informal American, at least. – Færd Mar 11 '16 at 21:41
  • 1
    @Gandalf and Fard. I speak American English and didn't flinch the use of snuck. To me sneaked sounds weird. – Alan Carmack Mar 14 '16 at 3:44
1

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.

0

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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.