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Sometimes I see the following expression after a search box:

Search this website.

Some people say that the correct expression is

Search in this website.

Which is correct, and what is the grammatical explanation?

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2  
If you can search the premises and search the house, I see no reason you can't search the website. –  onomatomaniak Sep 25 '11 at 17:15
    
Search in this website isn't actually wrong, but it does sound a bit verbose/formal/dated - not really appropriate usage for websites. I'm with @mgkrebbs that the simpler transitive form is to be preferred. –  FumbleFingers Sep 25 '11 at 18:04
    
I think "search in this website" is wrong if you're going to use a search engine or other external index. If you're looking in the Denver phone book, you are searching the city of Denver, but you are not searching in the city of Denver. If you literally mean to go through the web site looking for something, saying "search in" makes sense. –  David Schwartz Jan 26 '12 at 5:01

1 Answer 1

Search can be either a transitive verb or an intransitive verb, that is, it can have a direct object or not. A direct object is the thing to which the verb's action is directed. So,

Search this website

is a valid use of the transitive search, since the searching is directed against the website.

Search in this website

is also valid, grammatically. This is essentially using search in an intransitive way, but then attaching the prepositional phrase in this website to add information, namely where the search is to take place. Since where the search takes place is the same thing as what is to be searched, the two forms have the same meaning. The simpler, transitive form (search this website) is generally to be preferred.

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Transitive/intransitive is the key distinction, as you say. But I do find it interesting that with the intransitive version we tend to add in this site rather than on this site. Presumably because search implies you might have to "dig deeper". In other contexts I'd more likely say, for example, The information is on this site (assuming it to be "near the surface" and easily found). –  FumbleFingers Sep 25 '11 at 17:58
    
A more practical example of the usage for "in/on" would be helpful too. For example "Search for indefinite article on this site" is a way to distinguish that you are going to limit the search to this site's content. –  JeffSahol Sep 25 '11 at 18:15
    
You say "in" not "on" because the website is considered to be a container of it's content (not surprisingly) not the base or foundation on which the content is laid. However, I would argue that the transitive usage is more common and appropriate in any case. –  Joel Brown Sep 25 '11 at 18:21

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