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While doing some formal writing at my office, my friend told me that in is more apt than with in the following sentence. However, my understanding says when we talk about tools of action, we generally use with.

A gazetted officer is required to sign with/in green ink.

So which is more apt here?

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Sign in green ink is grammatically and semantically correct and also idiomatic.

Use with in reference to the pen, not the ink -- the pen is the 'tool' you refer to, while the ink is a medium at most. As in sign with a green pen.

  • I might want to add that the question has quite a few simple and avoidable errors in it. Follow our sister site ELL Q&A ell.stackexchange.com – Kris Feb 22 '13 at 10:51
  • The medium/style requirement for 'in' is obvious with 'write in French' and 'write in a florid style'. Ink is not an abstract noun, however: the choice of preposition could probably have gone either way historically. Indeed, 'they paint P oils' may use either preposition. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 29 '15 at 23:18
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I think using 'in' is better in this situation due to the signing IN pen. But with is also acceptable, in the context of 'signing in with/using a green pen'.

  • So both are correct here? – Sudhir Feb 22 '13 at 8:05
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    @Sudhir yes, with is allowed because with generally applies to something used to perform an action, but in is allowed because the signature would be in that ink, and as both answers have said, that would be the more usual. – Jon Hanna Feb 22 '13 at 12:32

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