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If a lunchbox contains an apple, then the apple is contained in a lunchbox. Is it possible to replace the phrase 'is contained in' with a single word? I can't think of one, and the thesaurus hasn't been very helpful, either.

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You could just say "is in"? – Kian Jun 17 '13 at 13:54
@Kian: Excellent. Plus one for brevity, succinctness, simplicity. On the other side of the spectrum (i.e., prolixity) you could have: "The content of the lunchbox is comprised of a single apple," but then this version does not simplify things, does it?! – rhetorician Jun 17 '13 at 15:59
"is in" is the most natural sounding and immediate expression. Kian should write his answer. – Mari-Lou A Jun 17 '13 at 20:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Try occupy, meaning to fill or take up (a space or time).

"The apple occupies the lunchbox." "The sofa occupies the entire room."

There don't appear to be too many single words meeting your requirement. If you were referring to an animal rather than an apple, you could use inhabit.

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I was writing an answer with those very words when you posted yours. =) – Kaiser Octavius Jun 17 '13 at 14:21
Occupies I think is different I think it implies that the apple takes over all the box – Mark Oct 20 '14 at 14:43

Is in, is within, or is inside typically can substitute for is contained in. Eg, “The apple is inside the lunchbox.” Making lunchbox the subject of course gives you a short sentence that includes contain: “The lunch box contains an apple.”

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The best I can come up with is inhabit. According to Dictionary.com, it is used of things that are capable of locomotion or of abstract things, so it will seem a little ridiculous in this context. Occupy is another word, but the best thing to do by far is just to say "is contained in" or "is in", as Kian has suggested.

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The apple held in the lunch box.

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There are two ways to read this sentence. Either you this means the apple is constraining the lunch box in some way (like "the police held in the crowd"), which is not at all what OP meant, or you mean is, "the apple is held in the lunch box," which doesn't replace the phrase "is contained in"--it only replaces the word contained. Either way I don't think this really answers the question. – p.s.w.g Jun 17 '13 at 21:04
You're absolutely right, but I don't believe the other answers do either, with the exceptions of "is in" and "inside". Nevertheless, the meaning of hold is quite similar to contain and sounds quite elegant to my ear. – Mari-Lou A Jun 17 '13 at 21:10
@p.s.w.g, After all, "is contained in a" has four words, my solution: "held in the" has only three words. – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '13 at 19:33

The lunch box includes an apple.

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Answering the wrong question: OP asked 'the apple ???s the lunchbox'. – TimLymington Jun 17 '13 at 16:20
Answer works, just involves moving a few other words in the sentence around. Original question does not forbid that. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 17 '13 at 17:00
If you're rearranging other words, you've missed the point of the question. And even if OP had explicitly allowed swapping the subject and object, the best answer would simply be contains. – John Y Jun 17 '13 at 21:03

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