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I find myself quite puzzled whenever I come across with the sentences containing "be involved in/with".Because I couldnt find a way to properly convert "involve" into my language when it's in passive voice. So let's put aside all those tedious dictionary definitions, I want you native guyz to explain what exactly comes to your mind or pops into your head whenever you hear someone saying

"She's been involved with animal rights for many years"

"Cummings has been actively involved with the church for years"

"many people were involved in the crime"

"Fathers are getting more involved with their families"

Don't know if I think correctly but what I understand from first two sentences is that the all these people have been included in mentioned cases but there's no any compulsion and they therefore have been drawn or lured to these. The third one sounds to me like "many people had their hands in the crime" The fourth, getting away from its basic meaning, makes quite different sense to me like "they are begining to spend more time with their families" so there's no any triggering factor. So what's your thoughts about "be involved in/with"? What comes to your mind when it's used in general speaking, writing or reading?

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To be involved hasn't got one interpretation. What comes to mind first is participation, then to be engaged or to be included. (A nonnative speaker, though).

  • You are very close to the truth. I'm a non-native speaker too. – SovereignSun Mar 31 '17 at 11:22
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Sentences 1,2 and 4 represent willing actions and no compulsion is implied. She is involved with animals because she cares for animals and actively wants to be a person that protects. Cummings is involved with the church because his deep faith yearns for such work. Fathers are getting involved because they want to and not because of some coercion. The third sentence is more ambivalent and while crime is something that is not usually gone into with a great deal of glee there is the occasional individual who gets a testosterone high from it.

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The difference between involve in and involve with is very shadowy, especially with an –ing form of a verb standing after.

In most cases though:

  1. involve in generally refers to "participation" (mostly static)
  2. involve with mostly refers to "association" (mostly dynamic)

By "participation" I mostly mean "taking part in an activity, event or situation" or "be or become occupied or engrossed in something". I've also noticed that "involve with" mostly implies a contribution.

Feel the difference:

  1. Mary is involved in a weapons program.
  2. Mary is involved with a weapons program.

The first sentence implies a participation in the program, she's taking part in it, she might not contribute to its development though. She's probably isn't a part of the team working on the program.

The second sentence implies that Mary associated herself with the program. She's contributing to the development and research. She's a part of a team working on the program.


In your examples:

  1. "She's been involved with animal rights for many years" - She an associate of the idea that animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives. It's not some kind of event or occasion, and she's not participation in it, she's contributing to it.

  2. "Cummings has been actively involved with the church for years" - Cummings (i hope it's a name but I'm not sure) has been associating himself with the church. Maybe he was a supporter or there was some religious connection. A church isn't something you can involve in.

  3. "Many people were involved in the crime" - A crime here is a probably an illegal activity rather than an action. The people were participation in it; they were taking part in the crime.

  4. "Fathers are getting more involved with their families" - Fathers were spending more time with their families; they were establishing a better connection with them.

As you have noticed "involve with" mostly speaks about a continuous action while "involve in" speaks about something that happened once, or some event, or some general idea or fact.

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