I'm French and work with a German colleague. I often hear the expression "put in place" which to me corresponds to the French expression "mettre en place".

This expression means more or less "set up things to get something to work". For example:

I put in place all the shelves so you can store your books.

Is this grammatical and idiomatic?

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    One puts something in place (normally not put in place something) often meaning to take care about positioning and fit. This usually applies to assembling or installing activities like assembling machines, decorating rooms or store windows; or metaphorically with ideas in the mind. Often extended to refer to manner or incidental effects of "putting into place" in inchoative ~ causative constructions, e.g, It snapped/clicked/dropped into place ~ She snapped/clicked/dropped it into place. Dec 6 '13 at 16:20
  • So I guess my answer is Yes put in place can be considered as an english expression.
    – Kiwy
    Dec 6 '13 at 16:23
  • Yes; it's an idiomatic construction. Dec 6 '13 at 18:55

"In place" is an idiom, meaning:

  1. In the appropriate or usual position or order: With everything in place, she started the slide show.
  2. In the same spot; without moving forwards or backwards: While marching in place, the band played a popular tune.

"Put in place" can be a combination of the literal "put" and the idiomatic "in place", in which case it means positioned correctly, returned to its proper location, or placed where it currently is.

"Put in place" can also be an idiom in its own right, meaning established or implemented, usually referring to a system, a social structure or an institution, and often not involving any actual objects being relocated. Similarly (like with your example above) it can also mean "constructed" or "assembled" when referring to a useful physical stationary object, like your shelters for books. It could also mean that the individual organized, managed or funded the establishment of a system, institution, piece of infrastructure, etcetera, through proxies who performed the actual work.

Being "put in place" as a person takes on a more negative context and indicates being scolded, punished, reminded of authority or reminded of one's proper position in a social structure.

  • Good answer. Would be great with supporting references. Sep 2 at 20:14

The context in which I would most expect to hear the phrase "put in place" would be for the institution of a system or procedure. "A system was put in place whereby students could complain about a teacher anonymously through the school website." Something like that would sound perfectly correct, but it is definitely not "put" in the physical sense of the word. It would also be correct, and probably more common in everyday speech, to separate that phrasal verb to make it active (i.e. "The university put a system in place so that students...").


This is a bit complicated, especially with the example you give.

"Mettre en place" suggests putting something in a specific location where it belongs (positionner, placer).

Americans would usually simply say, I placed if putting something in a location, e.g. I placed the book on the nightstand. If they are putting it back where it belongs, they commonly use 'replace'. I replaced to book on the shelf.

You seem to be asking if something was built or assembled ("construit") such that the book now has a place where it now belongs. As such, you might want to say

I assembled the shelves so you can store your books, or

I put up the shelves so you can store your books. (I think this best captures it.)

Finally, there is a slang, "put in (his) place" (mettre à sa place) which means to correct a haughty person so as to embarrass them a bit (Did you see that? I put him in his place!)

I speak French (Canadian) so if you want to correct my assumptions, please do, I will understand if you use French.)

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    Put in place is idiomatic in certain contexts - "I put the ladder in place before washing the windows" is better than "I placed the ladder...". There is a metaphorical usage derived from this, "Before you can sell your product, you've got to put the manufacture and transport in place". Dec 6 '13 at 18:19
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    As an American English native speaker, "I put the ladder in place before ..." seems perfectly fine. "I set the ladder up before ..." is acceptable as well; though I feel the two sentences have subtly different meanings. The former implies that there is a location specifically for the ladder (or where the ladder would most optimally go) and the latter has a more ambiguous location constraint (where it isn't necessary to specify location). "I positioned the ladder ..." would almost always sound more awkward to me (too formal, maybe?)
    – Doc
    Dec 6 '13 at 18:55

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