Break in/into

Discussion in 'English Only' started by micka, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. micka

    micka Senior Member

    Suisse
    Français
    Hello,

    I'm trying to learn some english phrasal verbs and I've came across "to break in" in the sense of "entering a place unlawfully". I've always used "to break into" to express this so far.
    As there are two possible prepositions, I was wondering if there might be a difference of use and meaning between "to break in" and "to break into".

    Thanks :)
     
  2. kitenok Senior Member

    Hi micka,

    If I were using this phrasal verb with a direct object, I would only use "break into":

    Kitenok broke into my house while I was on vacation.

    If I were using it without a direct object, I would only use "break in":

    I left my house for two weeks to go on vacation, and while I was gone, Kitenkok broke in three times!
     
  3. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Santa Maria, CA
    English (U.S.)
    One is transitive and the other isn't; I think that's the difference.

    "I forgot my house keys, so I had to break in."
    "I had to break into my house because I forgot my keys."
     
  4. micka

    micka Senior Member

    Suisse
    Français
    Oh I had not thought of that.

    Thank you!
     
  5. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Another way to think of it is that the in in break in is an adverb, and the into in break into is a preposition (with an object house) denoting change of location (hence into instead of in).

    Into cannot be an adverb. Did you go into? :cross: Therefore, you cannot say I broke into. :cross:

    In, on the other hand, can be an adverb--Did you go in? / I broke in :tick:--as well as a preposition--I am in the house--hence why some people sometimes say I broke in the house just like they say I went in the house instead of I went into the house. Some grammarians consider this use of in incorrect, but it's very frequent in colloquial English.

    I'd also say that inside can be used both as an adverb & a preposition here: I broke inside the house, I broke inside.
     
  6. kitenok Senior Member

    So that our non-native-English-speaking friends don't get confused and think that "broke in the house," "broke inside the house," and "broke into the house" are equally common and completely interchangeable, here are some basic usage stats:

    ................................Google (page 1).........Google (Last page).............Corpus of Contemporary American English
    broke into the house......249,000......................774.................................23 examples
    broke in the house.........4600..........................374..................................2 examples
    broke inside the house.....290...........................25...................................0 examples

    Google (last page) counts come from clicking all the way to the end of the search to the last page, where Google edits out what it believes are duplicate or similar results and gives you a revised estimate.
     
  7. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    So what about the line in the song "Sloop John B" - made famous by the Beach Boys:

    The first mate he got drunk, broke in the Captain's trunk ...

    OK or not?

    I always considered that wrong (or something that used to be right), but maybe it depends ...
     
  8. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    I'd say it's just a colloquial use of the preposition in where stricter grammar would require into.

    Another example would be Go in the house! It's much easier, faster, and more direct to say that than to say Go into the house!

    Remember that sounds like in and ing collapse into a simple n sound in fast, colloquial English. It's just much easier for us--we're lazy. So we often choose to say in instead of into so that we can shorten it even more to n. :)
     
  9. micka

    micka Senior Member

    Suisse
    Français
    All these explanations were really interesting, thanks! :)
     
  10. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    There is no way in the world that you can take grammar lessons from lyricists!
     
  11. kitenok Senior Member

    My toy poodle broke in the trunk while we were driving across the country... :eek:

    Sometimes using the same preposition for motion and for location can lead to ambiguity, which is why those grammarians that Brian mentioned in post 5 would encourage maintaining the distinction between in and into.

    Back when English had grammatical cases, we used in + locative (later dative) to refer to location, and in + accusative to refer to motion. As we lost the case system, we needed to find something to carry the motion/location distinction, so we developed the preposition into. But, in practice, the work of carrying the motion/location distinction is usually done by the verb, so we very frequently revert to in as our preposition of motion. There are certainly cases where into is the only reasonable and idiomatic choice, however: "I'll look into this further":thumbsup: "I'll look in this further":thumbsdown:
     

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