Word Choice: In vs. Inn
  • 3-minute read
  • 16th June 2021

Word Choice: In vs. Inn

Since “in” and “inn” sound the same, it is easy to mix up these terms. Make sure you can use them correctly in your writing by checking out our guide below.

In (Inside or Part of Something)

“In” is a very common word, most often used as a preposition (i.e., a word that tells us the relationship between other words). It has a lot of uses in different situations, but most relate to being included within, part of, or inside something else.

This is often a physical relationship, indicating a place, position, or arrangement:

My parents live in Belgium.

I found his photo in the newspaper.

They were sat in a circle.

It is also used in relation to positions or moments in time or a process:

I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.

Classes start in September.

The key step in the process has been completed.

But it also has uses related to things like beliefs, feelings, and languages:

I don’t believe in ghosts.

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I’m in love.

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In addition, “in” can be an adverb (e.g., to indicate the direction of a movement):

Please come in and sit down.

And it can even be an adjective, where it typically refers to being fashionable:

She was always part of the in crowd.

As you can see, then, “in” has a lot of uses, including plenty that we haven’t mentioned here! The important thing to remember is that “in” usually connects or modifies other words, often in relation to being part of or inside something.

Inn (A Pub with Lodgings)

In American English, the noun “inn” typically refers to a small country hotel:

She stayed at an inn in Vermont for the weekend.

It is also part of the name of some larger hotel chains (e.g., Days Inn, Comfort Inn).

Outside the US, though, “inn” often refers to a pub that also offers rooms to rent:

We stopped for lunch at an inn near the top of the hill.

This is especially common in the UK, where many countryside pubs are also inns.

A traditional inn in the UK.
(Photo © Graham Hogg, cc-by-sa/2.0)

Summary: In or Inn?

Although “in” and “inn” might sound the same, they have very different uses:

  • In is typically a preposition (i.e., a connecting word), most often indicating a position within or being part of something, among various uses.
  • Inn is always a noun that refers to a place where you can stay overnight. Traditionally, this was a public house that also offered food and drink.

The key difference is how these words function. “In” is used in many situations, but it almost always shows us how other words are related. For example, in “The cat is in the box,” “in” tells us the relationship between “cat” and “box.”

“Inn” on the other hand, is only ever a noun, so it always refers to a type of building or business. It is also a much rarer word. Thus, as long as you remember that “inn” with a double “n” is only used like this, you will know “in” is correct elsewhere.

And don’t forget: if you are worried about misusing these words, or any other aspect of your writing, our proofreading experts are here to help.

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