Prepositions cause a lot of problems for learners of English. It's not always obvious which preposition you should use in an expression - and very often the preposition you'd use in your language is NOT the same in English.
So in this blog post, I've divided some common English phrases with "in" into categories to help you remember them better.
When we talk about being inside buildings, we use "in":
in custody = when someone has been arrested and is at the police station.
"Is Jamie still in custody?"
in prison = when someone has committed a serious crime
"Her uncle is in prison for murder."
in hospital = when someone is ill
"She's in hospital with appendicitis."
in school = when a pupil goes to school (between the ages of 5-16/18)
"All her children are now in school."
in church = when someone attends a religious service
"I think John's in church at the moment."
Place And Position
Similarly, we can also use "in" when we refer to being in a place or position - but not necessarily in a physical place.
in place = ready, prepared
"The government has put a few measures in place before the new law comes in."
Also "in the right place"
"Are we in the right place for ticket refunds?"
in order = organised, ready
"He put all his paperwork in order before he moved abroad."
in position = when you are in the right (physical) place before an event
"All the players were in position for the free kick."
in the same boat = to be in the same situation
"I'm in the same boat as you. I don't know if I qualify for housing assistance."
"In" expressions also describe the state or situation of a person or thing. These expressions can often be negative.
in a good / bad condition
"This car is in a really bad condition."
in a good / bad mood
"He's in a bad mood today."
"I found myself in difficulty with the rent."
in trouble = often used when you have problems with people or institutions
"He's in trouble with the police."
"He realised that his life was in danger."
in a tight spot = when you're facing a temporary problem (often financial)
"After he lost his job, he was in a bit of a tight spot for a couple of months."
in tears = when you cry
"She was in tears when she heard the news."
in a mess = disorganised (or very sad)
"My desk in in a mess. I need to tidy it up."
"She was in a mess after her divorce."
in control = to have authority over someone / something
"Is the army in control of the situation?"
in the wrong / in the right = to be at fault - or not at fault
"You know, he's in the wrong. He should never have said that."
"You're in the right, but perhaps you could have been more diplomatic."
in vain = when you make an effort to do something, but you don't get the result you want
"I tried to persuade him not to do it - but it was all in vain. He went ahead anyway."
in pain = when a part of your body hurts
"Are you in pain?" the nurse asked.
in over your head = when you are in a situation that you don't have the experience to deal with
"I think I'm in over my head at work. I'm supposed to lead a negotiation, but I've never done it before."
in demand = when a lot of people want something
"The new teacher is in demand!"
in stock = available
"I don't have any more calendars in stock."
in doubt = when something is under question
"Her loyalty was never in doubt."
in common = if you have something in common with another person, you share it with them
"He doesn't have much in common with his cousin."
in favour = when you're in favour of something, you approve of it
"I'm not in favour of another fast-food restaurant in this town."
in luck = to be fortunate
"You're in luck! We've got this in a small size."
Emotions / Reactions
in love = when you love someone very much
"Those two are still in love after 20 years together."
in hope = when you do something because you are hoping for it
"I entered the competition more in hope than anything else."
in fear = when you feel fear
"She's living in fear of her life."
in wonder = when you feel amazed
"He gazed at her in wonder. Was she really going to marry him?"
in awe = to be awestruck by someone / something
"She was in awe of her History professor."
in favour = favoured, approved
"We proposed merging the two departments, but she wasn't in favour."
Also "in someone's favour" = be to someone's advantage.
"This agreement works in your favour."
in horror = when you are horrified by something
"I looked at him in horror. Did he really mean what he'd said?"
in terror = when you are terrified
"The little girl ran away from the dog in terror."
in surprise = when you're surprised
"She looked at him in surprise. She hadn't known he was a Labour supporter."
Here are some common linking phrases with "In":
in particular = to specify something
"He's done a lot of work for charity. In particular, he's worked with Amnesty."
in general = to generalise
"In general, when the clouds go really dark, it means we're going to get rain."
in addition = when there is something extra
"The company decided to give their workers a pay rise. In addition, they gave everyone two extra days of holiday a year."
in conclusion = to conclude
"In conclusion, I'd like to say that the programme was a great success."
in summary = to summarise
"In summary, the launch was a success."
in fact = to support your argument
"English is a stress-timed language. In fact, weak sounds are almost impossible to hear."
in case = if something happens in the future
"Take an umbrella in case it rains."
For more linking phrases, see my page Linking Words.
We often use "in" with time expressions to show a period of time in the future.
in the end = finally
"In the end, the hero manages to rescue the hostages."
in the meantime = while (often while you're waiting for something else to happen)
"I'm waiting to hear back from the interview. In the meantime, I'm still applying for other jobs."
in a while = in a short period of time
"He went out, but he'll be back in a while."
in a minute = soon
"The doctor will be with you in a minute."
in time = after a period of time has gone by
"In time, you'll probably realise that you made a really good decision."
in season = when vegetables and fruit are ready to eat
"I love this time of year when strawberries are in season."
in a hurry = when you don't have much time
"I'm sorry I can't help you now. I'm in a hurry."
How Something Is Done
Some "in" expressions can be replaced with an adverb ending in -ly. (This is because we often use adverbs to talk about the manner of something - ie, how something is done.)
in style = in an impressive way
"When she travels, she does it in style. She always goes first class and takes a lot of luggage with her."
in fashion = fashionable
"Texts are more in fashion now than emails."
(vs "go out of fashion")
in disguise = when you try to hide who you really are and wear different clothes
"They attended the wedding party in disguise."
Also "a blessing in disguise" = when something negative later reveals itself to be positive
"Not getting that job was a blessing in disguise, as I ended up in a far better company."
in detail = when you give more facts
"Can you tell me about it in detail?"
in private = privately
"Can I talk to you for a moment in private?"
in return / in exchange = as an exchange for something
"She looked after their children for an evening, and in return, they did her shopping for her."
in secret = secretly
"They had a meeting in secret."
in someones honour = when something is done to honour a person
"They held a banquet in his honour."
in person = when you attend an event, rather than sending someone on your behalf
"The Chairman of the football club came to the dinner in person."
in silence = silently
"The class sat in silence."
Here are a couple of "in" phrases for money.
in cash = if you pay in cash, you pay in notes and coins
"You have to pay in cash in this shop."
in debt = when you owe money
"He's still in debt to the bank."
Speak English More Naturally
A quick way to speak English more naturally is to use common expressions like the "in" phrases above.
In my fluency program Real English Conversations, I show you the most common collocations and expressions in spoken English.
Scroll down to "Class Curriculum" and click any of the free, preview lessons in Module 1 - "Spending Time With Friends".