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On this tutoring tips episode #79 Alexis Avila of The Prepped & Polished Podcast talks about two prepositions that students often misuse and how to use them correctly, “in” and “into”.

“In” and “into” are two prepositions that students often misuse but their meanings are quite similar, of course, but each has its own specific usage. So, the simplest way to break it down is to think about what is happening in the sentence. So, if the preposition you need refers to the position of something, then “in” is the correct word to use. If you need a preposition referring to the direction of movement of something, then “into” is more appropriate. For example:

The boss asked her employee to step into her office. (direction of motion)

The papers we had been searching for were in her office all along. (position)

Mr. Jacobson trudged into the swamp. (direction of motion)

Mr. Jacobson was in the swamp when the alligator swam by. (position)

There are cases in which “in” is part of a phrasal verb, and therefore “in to” is the proper construction. Examples include “hand in” and “break in.” The test for a phrasal verb is to check if the verb has the same meaning with or without the preposition. “To break” is different from “to break in,” so “break in” is its own phrasal verb construction. Even if this verb involves motion, not position, “in” is part of the verb; for this reason, “into” is inappropriate.

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