He looks out for all the possible support he can gain from the villagers, and at the same time looks in for inner courage that will prepares him for the worst result. (He wants to be elected by fellow villagers)

I know “look out for” as a phrase only means ‘to be aware of something/one’s existence. Here I use “look out for” to refer to “search for something in the outside world”, and “look in for”, to mean “discover something within oneself”.

Will the readers understand the "out" as an adverbs to modify "look for" without setting sight on "look out" as an idiom? Does "look in for" make sense?

2 Answers 2


"Look out for" is usually used in junction with a negative concept, such as "Look out for the incoming missile!".

Support is something you don't look out for, it is what you seek, or embrace.

"Looks in" does not fit well in your sentence, as it is unclear where the person is looking in, and also because you use the word "inner" (repetition).

He seeks all the possible support that he can gain from the villagers, and searches for the inner courage that will prepare him for the worst.

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    I agree "Looks in" doesn't fit well in OP's sentence. It's just "writing advice" anyway, but I wouldn't have any real problem with look within for this exact context (where there's supposed to be a juxtaposition between using both external and internal resources to address a problem). Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:04
  • We're not talking "great literature" here - OP has some ways to go before just to avoid advertising the fact of not being a native speaker. I upvoted your answer specifically for pointing out that in doesn't work at all well. But I don't think ELU is the place to offer writing advice, and I don't agree with your first point anyway (among people I converse with, it's perfectly normal to say you'll look out for a film, book, song, etc. that someone recommended, fully expecting it to be good). Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:17
  • @FumbleFingers: This is getting really confusing. What constitutes as 'writing advice' and what does not? Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:20
  • OP has asked whether something like "He looked in to find the courage to deal with his problems" constitutes a "credible" usage. To which the answer is obviously No - but within is a perfectly normal usage. Rewrites that don't use any preposition at all are straying off into more general "writing advice" with no real relevance to the specific item being queried here. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:31

Well done, and completely grammatical. The "look out for" is idiomatic (to beware of, to be on the lookout for, to take care of), which works, and the "look in for" is not idiomatic, just a perfectly sensible construction, in parallel form but with a semantic contrast. A fine piece of paronomasia, even if inadvertent.

(In other words, as my mother-in-law used to say: You did better than you knew how.)

IMHO, you would be ill-advised to change "look in" to "look inward" or "look within". Not unless you want to pair it up with "look outward" or "look without" (which I deprecate because it's archaic).


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