“Within” vs. “with in” vs. “in” Posted by on May 4, 2012 in English Grammar

A while back I wrote a post on the difference between can not and cannot and in the comments to that post a reader asked me to write about the difference between within and with in and without and with out.  Well, it turns out there really is not a difference in meaning between without and with out or within and with inWithin and without are simply the correct ways of writing these words.  Within and without should not be written with a space between with/in or with/out, according to all major dictionaries.  This is a good lesson for us all (myself included) to be sure in the future to remember that these words are always written as one word (i.e. within), not two separate words (with in).  But since we are talking about the word within there is a small but important difference in usage to be noted between the words within and in.  I am going to take the time to go over that difference today.

In vs. within

In (a preposition) expresses a period of time during which an event will take place or a situation remains the case. In expresses that a specific stated time will elapse before another event happens.

Here are some examples of correct usage (with what the examples mean in parentheses):
I will leave for vacation in a month. (Exactly one month from now I will go on vacation.)
We’ll be there in an hour.  (Exactly one hour will go by and then we will arrive.)

Within (a preposition) expresses that something will occur inside a particular period of time.  Within is used to express that some stated time or less will pass before something happens.

Here are some examples of correct usage (with what the examples mean in parentheses):
We’ll reach the cabin within the hour. (We will arrive sometime between now and one hour from now.)
You must send off your registration within three days. (You have from now until three days from now to send your registration.)

I hope this explanation makes sense to you all.  Like I said above, the difference between the prepositions in and within is slight, but it does exist, so it is good to know which to use in different situations.

I’ll be putting up another post for you to read in a day 🙂

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. ola ahmed:

    thank u so much
    I’m a student of English language, would u plz tell us the difference between “use & “usage”
    thanks alot

    • gabriele:

      @ola ahmed Great idea! I’ll be sure to write a post on that topic in the next month or so, stay tuned.

      • LCrow:

        @gabriele Isn’t this the incorrect usage of “in”?

    • IC Gupta:

      @ola ahmed Use is verb where as usage in noun.

  2. Alonzo|:

    Thanks a lot. This information and the previous one about cann and cannot have helped me in everyway. However, I have heard this word “within” placed in sentences that has nothing to do with periods of time. Do you know something about it?

    • gabriele:

      @Alonzo| Hi there,
      Yes, the word “within” is a preposition that is used to express location as well. In this sense it is a synonym with the word “inside”. So, the word “within” can be used to express both location and time. The proposition “within” used to express location is always spelled as one word.
      Here is an example of how the word within is used to express location:
      The fire burns within the fireplace.
      I hope this helps.

  3. Carlos Monteiro:

    Hi, I am learning english and I’ve seen on internet that there is a way of use “With in” separately. In this situation: “Who else are you going to deal with in a situation like this?”. In this situation maybe is “deal with + in”; but I’ve read in a philosophy book: “His position on this topic is dealt with in chapter 6.” Is this last sentence right? Cheers.

    • gabriele:

      @Carlos Monteiro Hi Carlos,
      In the examples you give ‘in’ is the beginning of a prepositional phrase (e.g. ‘in a situation’ and ‘in chapter 6’) so you are correct in saying that in these examples you have with + in. In these examples the ‘with’ and the ‘in’ are not immediately connected in meaning even though they are immediately proceeding/following each other in the sentence. The last sentence you asked about; it is right for the the very reason you stated. Great job figuring this out and explaining it.

  4. Carlos Monteiro:

    Thank you for your kindness and your explanation:) From now, I will follow your blog. Cheers

  5. Alexander S. Makarov:

    This is a nice blog! I like it. Your explanations are very available even for a humble level like mine. Thank you

  6. Michael Brussow:

    This sentence seems wrong to me. I have consulted two grammar checking sites. Neither found an error and yet I still feel that the use of ‘within’ and ‘in’ is redundant. Please help!

    “This was based on an analysis of the cave’s stratigraphy and the sediment in which the skull was embedded within.”

    The following is where the sentence can be found in context:
    Read more:
    Follow us: @ancientorigins on Twitter | ancientoriginsweb on Facebook

    • Gabriele:

      @Michael Brussow Michael,
      Yes, the use of within at the end of this sentence does seem redundant, but it is also grammatical.
      The sentence is fine with ‘within’ either included or not, in my opinion.

  7. HP:

    I’m struggling with this sentence:
    “I have training and practical knowledge within digital design and communication”. Would that be an incorrect use of within? If it is, I was hoping to find out if I should use “with” or “in”. Or perhaps neither of them? Thanks a lot!

    • Gabriele:

      @HP This is a perfect example of the use of the word within. Nice sentence!

  8. Daniel:

    Greetings, thanks for the very helpful tips. I think there are more to say about the difference between ‘in’ and ‘within’, such as ‘in this research’ and ‘within this research’, which is another aspect of using these words. Would you please include all of these aspects in your article so we can read it more easily?

    Best regards,

  9. Muthu:

    Thanks a lot

  10. Arif:

    I have learned the use of within vs in properly from your best explanation.