What is the meaning of the "in" in these sentences? "inside the action" (metaphorical) or "during the action" or something else?

1- There is no shame in wanting to be successful.

2- There is no advantage in working at that company

3- She realized there was no use in arguing with him.

4- Mary is wrong in saying, 'Jack is stupid'.

Can I omit the "in" or change with another preposition?


1'- There is no shame wanting to be succesful

2'- There is no advantage working at that company.

3'- She realized there was no use arguing with him.

4'- Mary is wrong saying, 'Jack is stupid'.


"In" doesn't have a meaning in your examples. It's one of several prepositions that have what is known as 'grammaticised' uses -- those which are not determined by their meanings.

The basic meaning of "in" is 'interior location', as in "in the kitchen/car/road etc", but in your examples "in" has no such meaning. In fact it has no discernible meaning at all, but convention has it that certain nouns, adjectives and verbs select (more or less exclusively) preposition phrases with "in" as head. Examples like yours where a gerund-participial (-ing) clause is complement to "in" are very common.

Yes, the prepositions are omissible -- it is possible for gerund-participial clauses like those in your examples to be direct complement of a noun, adjective or verb rather than via "in".

Have I explained that clearly?

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Thank you. So the altered ones, 1', 2', 3' and 4', mean exactly the same as the original ones? How do "verb-ing clauses" modify the sentences? For example : Does "wanting to be succesful" act as a noun or an adverb? Does it modify the noun before it(shame) or the whole clause?

Yes, the meanings are the same.

The ing clauses are not modifiers. In your examples without "in", they are direct complements of the nouns "shame", "advantage" and "use", and of the adjective "wrong".

In your first four examples, they are complements of the preposition "in", and the whole preposition phrases are then complements of those nouns/adjective.

I want to ask one more thing if possible.

"We took turns in pushing the bike along." Is "in pushing..." the complement of "turns" or "took turns" ?

"We took turns pushing the bike along." (I feel like here, "pushing" modifies the whole clause and acts like an adverb. I would say "pushing..." is a participle in that sentence. Is it right? )

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The PP "in pushing the bike along" is complement of "turns", cf. My turns in pushing the bike along were a disaster.

Thank you. Is there a way to know when "in" is omissible in these kind of sentences?

My turns pushing the bike along were a disaster. (Is it okay?)