Difference Between In and Inside

Main Difference – In vs Inside

In and inside are two words that can be used synonyms in some instances. But this does not mean that they have the same meanings and functions. Both words have the ability to function as prepositions, adjectives and adverbs. It is their function as a preposition that most people confuse; the two prepositions in and inside can sometimes be used interchangeably since they indicate a location. But the preposition in only suggests a location whereas inside carries a strong sense of being physically enclosed. This can be termed as the main difference between in and inside. This difference will be further analyzed in this article by examining the meaning and functions of these two prepositions separately.

In – Meaning and Usage

In can be used as a preposition, adverb, and adjective. In this article, however, we are looking at in as preposition. As a preposition, in can be used to indicate a location, time, position, etc.


This happened in the late 1950s.

She is in her mid-twenties.

He’ll come out in fifteen minutes.


She has been living in Paris for fifteen years.

The wife remained in the house and husband went out.

I kept it in that big blue box.

It is this meaning related to location which often lead people to confuse in and inside. Look at the above three sentences again and see whether you can replace the preposition in with inside.

The first sentence might sound wrong, but the next two sentences will sound okay. You might want to know what the difference between these sentences is. Let’s look at this difference in the following section.

Main Difference - In vs Inside

The child played in the garden.

Inside – Meaning and Usage

Inside can also be used as a preposition, adverb, adjective as well as a noun. But in this article, we’ll be focusing on the prepositional function of this word. The preposition inside is always associated with a sense of being physical enclosed. Inside can be explained by words and phrases like surrounded by, within, etc.

Let’s now move on to the above three examples without further delay. If we replace those three sentences with inside, we get the following sentences.

She has been living inside Paris for fifteen years.

The wife remained inside the house, and husband went out.

I kept it inside that big blue box.

The first example is not quite right since ‘living inside Paris’ because there is a sense of being surrounded or enclosed attached to inside. But when we say we are living in a certain country, city or town, this sense of being enclosed does not make any sense.

In the second example, ‘wife remained inside’ can be interchangeable with ‘wife remained in the house’. But when we use the preposition inside, it also implies that she didn’t come out of the house even once, while in implies a much freer meaning.

The third sentence is a perfect example of the confusion between in and inside. Here, the two senses are perfectly interchangeable.

Difference Between In and Inside

What is inside the box?

Difference Between In and Inside

Grammatical Categories

In can be used as a preposition, adverb, and adjective.

Inside can be used as a preposition, adverb, adjective as well as a noun.


In is mainly used to express a location or a time period.

Inside is only used to express a location.

Sense of being enclosed

In doesn’t really convey a sense of being enclosed.

Inside conveys a sense of being enclosed or surrounded.Difference Between In and Inside - infographic

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