About the verb give in

We had a bit of a debate yesterday with a Freelang user who played one of our quizzes about English language (on the French website of Freelang). One of the question was about the verb “give in” meaning “hand in”, like hand in a paper after an exam. The person took the quiz and then sent me an email saying that I had made a mistake and that you couldn’t use “give in” as a synonym of “hand in”. English is not my mother tongue, but I had checked in a dictionary before making the quiz, so I just told the person that I had found the verb in a dictionary. I said maybe it was just less used than hand in. She replied and said that “give in” meant surrender, or yield, but that it was not a transitive verb and you couldn’t “give in something”. She also said I should trust her, as she was American and a native speaker of English.

So I checked again in different dictionaries, and I found this:
give in, a. to acknowledge defeat; yield.
b. to hand in; deliver:
Please give in your timecards.

And this:
give in
* vi insep[relent, yield]
to give in to sthg
the country
refused to give in to terrorist threats
* vt sep[hand in – book,
exam paper]

[- found object, parcel]
[- application, name]

Then I used Google to find some examples with a context, and I found this:
I completely lost my concentration with the teachers trying to calm people down, in the end I was the only person left in the hall believe it or not, so I gave in my paper which still had a question unanswered.

And this:
On an entirely unrelated note, I have a paper due tomorrow for my freshman seminar, Family History in the US and Europe. I just took it to the Writing Center and the guy really liked it! The Writing Center is my new fave place. You take them an idea, an outline, a draft, or a whole paper and they will read it and help you out. I gave in my paper (minus a conclusion) and we talked about some stylistic/grammar changes as well as what my conclusion should focus on.

Eventually, the person who had wrote to me admitted that “give in” could mean “hand in”, but she said it was probably British English, as it didn’t make any sense in American English. Which I thought was a bit strange, as the last example was found in the blog of an American student, born in NYC. However I didn’t want to push the contradiction further. My point was not to tell her that I was right and she was wrong. My point was rather to show that it’s not possible to know everything about a language, even if it’s your mother tongue. French is my mother tongue but I’m far from knowing all the words in the dictionary, or the different usages in various French provinces, or in Québec, Belgium or Africa!

Anyway, if English is your mother tongue, whether you’re from England, America or elsewhere, do you have any opinion on the verb give in meaning to hand in? Is it really British English, or is it simply a verb hardly used with this meaning?

8 Comments on “About the verb give in”

  1. The phrase – ‘ give in’ – can be used in two totally different ways in English. It can be used as a phrasal verb – ‘to give in’ – to cease fighting or arguing – see, for example, the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Or it can be used in a completely different way – such as in the examples given in the blog. In those cases the verb ‘to give’ is being used with a preposition – ‘in’.

  2. Hi All!

    I am from California, and I have only ever used “give in” to mean “surrender.” Furthermore, the connotation is more playful, and less serious as surrender. e.g. The English surrendered to the terrorist’s demands. One may use give in, but I use give in more, I gave in to my mother’s excessive nagging. I’m not sure, but maybe give in, meaning hand in, is more british. Thanks!

  3. “Give in,” as you proved, is a very flexible word. Since its meaning is determined by the context, i avoid it in writing. To “give up” also means to surrender or quit and, among playing children, the challenge, “Give?!?” is often used by the probable winner. For ‘submit,’ as ‘give in your exams,’ i would use ‘turn in’ or ‘hand in.’

    In the past 65 years, i have lived in 4 different, widely separated states. Within the 9M+ sq km U.S, there are lots of dialects and colloquialisms which are not immediately understood in other areas, e.g., ‘bubbler’ is ‘water fountain’ is ‘drinking fountain.’

  4. Hello,

    As a graduate from the University of Michigan with a BA in English and as someone who has lived in various parts of the U.S. I can honestly say that I have never heard ‘give in’ used in this fashion. I don’t even believe that it is used in the UK in this manner. Also, as Patrick said, it is a phrase not a word. To ‘give in’ as a phrase tends to carry a negative connotation where as to ‘turn in’ or ‘hand in’ carries a more possitive connotation, i.e. (He turned in the lost wallet.) vs. (He gave in the lost wallet.) There is an air of reluctance in the latter example as if the person were coerced into handing over the wallet. Even the blogger from NYC, despite their using terrible English, used the phrase in a negative manner for they were forced into turning in an incomplete paper. Perhaps “fave” should spend a little more time in the writing center.

  5. I’ve only heard “give in” as surrender, never as “to give.” For example, “I will give in to my father’s demands and clean my room.” Like customerservice said, it suggests reluctance, giving in if one thinks he or she will lose anyway. I’ve never heard it as “to give in a watch,” but the only experience I have is various friends and family spread through the US that I talk to regularly.

    I’ve heard of some new phrases from my friend in NYC, like standing “on line” as opposed to “in line,” and a long sandwich is a “hero” and not a “sub/submarine.”

  6. In a way – when you gave in your paper – you surrendered it in a way and that is irrespectively so whether you handed it in, gave it in, submitted it or whatever.

    On another note:
    Could anyone explain how these expressions fit together and how they came to be?
    Stand with – meaning to not let down.
    Withstand – meaning to endure
    – and
    Notwithstanding – meaning in spite of
    It is diffucult to see how they fit together – if at all???

  7. Hi, I’m English and live in the UK. I’ve just come across your blog as i was looking to translate a French letter i have. I digress –

    “Give in” doesn’t just mean to surrender – you can say “I gave it in to the college” you are more likely to use this expression in the past tense and this is quite common.

    People are more likely to say “I’ll hand it in” than “i’ll give it in for you” It would be perceived as better English to say hand it in but no one would bat an eyelid if you said “i’ll give it in for you”

    It is by no means unacceptable to say “i gave it in”


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