Yesterday afternoon, I found myself writing a note in which I ended a sentence with the word “in.” The English teacher in me almost began to twitch at the prospect of ending a sentence with a preposition until I realized I wasn’t using “in” as a preposition at all. I was using “in” as an adverb.
What’s the difference?
A preposition requires an object (a noun or pronoun) after it. For example, The answer is in the book. In is a preposition in this sentence because it is followed by the noun book. Like all prepositions, in is showing a relationship between a noun and another word in the sentence. In this case, in gives the relationship between the book and the answer.
An adverb tells how, when, where, or to what extent. It usually modifies a verb. So when I write a sentence like “Please turn your papers in,” I’m using in as an adverb telling where the papers should be turned. There is no noun that can act as an object after in in this sentence, so go ahead and leave it at the end all by itself. It’s an adverb. It can take it.
In the meantime, please turn in all your papers to the teacher in the above photo. I can’t take any more grading. 🙂
Photo via Wikimedia Commons