a man in/with a black hat

Lisa Huang

Taiwan, ROC
1. a man in a black hat
2. a man with a black hat

I think #1 means the hat is on the man's head,
but #2 has more meanings(situations).
Am I right?
  • Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Both expresssions are idiomatic, meaning much the same thing. If you say "He is a man in a black hat or he is a man with a black hat," either would be acceptable English. "A man with a black hat," in a different context could mean that the man has his hat in hand and is not wearing it. Eg., "Do you see those two men who are not wearing hats. He is the man with the black hat." The sentence is vague but would be acceptable in describing which man you have identified.


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I would add that "man in a black hat" might be a figurative way of describing a villain or an antagonist; this metaphor comes to us from old cowboy movies ("spaghetti westerns"), where the "good guy" invariably wore a white cowboy hat and the "bad guy" wore a black one.
    Whether "in a black hat" is meant literally, figuratively, or both in the text you are reading is not something I can answer.

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    That is a good observation. and the white hat/black hat goes back further than the spaghetti westerns. It explains why all of the kids from those 1930s wanted to be Hopalong when the movie was over with.