The Washington Post (June 13) reports that Mr. Donald Trump told “It was time to turn them in” on Fox News in the article under the title, “Trump just faced his first big leadership test. He failed miserably.”

“The problem is we have thousands of people right now in our country. You have people that were born in this country” who are susceptible to becoming “radicalized,” the billionaire real estate mogul told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends. He claimed that there are Muslims living here who “know who they are” and said it was time to “turn them in.”

There are hundreds definitions of dozens of idiomatic usage associated with the word, “turn” on English dictionaries at hand, and I’m unable to identify which definition is applicable to the phrase “turn them in” that came in with quotes.

For instance, Readers English Japanese Dictionary at hand gives following definitions under the heading of “turn in.”

vt. ① bend fingers of foot inward. ② put inside. ③ drive (animals) into the enclosure. ④ plow (fertilizers) into the ground. ⑤ submit (documents, resignation.) ⑥ hand out, deliver. ➆ return, give back. ⑧ turn over (to police). ⑨ tip a person off (to police). ⑩ achieve, record, mark, take in. ⑪ (colloquial) give up (a plan).

vi. ① (disease) retrocede. ② drop in. ③ (colloquial) go to bed. ④ (Foot fingers) bend inward.

Does “turn them in” means ⑧turn over them to police, which appears to be most likely to me? Though the answer will be a single and simple one, which one should I pick up from 14 usages of “turn in”? And why did the writer deliberately put the word in quotes

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    It means report them to the police. Snitch on them. – Dan Bron Jun 14 '16 at 0:25
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    The quotes indicate that it was a direct quotation, that is, actual words said by supposed-billionaire Donald Trump. – GoldenGremlin Jun 14 '16 at 0:29
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    Yes, it means your #8 definition -- turn them over to the police. And in this case it appears that "turn them in" is in quotes because that's what Mr Trump actually said, even though the concept is idiotic. The writer would have been doubly sure to indicate it was a quote, since it's not the way a responsible writer would paraphrase a rational comment by a politician. – Hot Licks Jun 14 '16 at 1:31
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    Why the consensus for #8 over #9 "tip off to police"? – user662852 Jun 14 '16 at 11:32
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    Which one you pick up really depends on the context of the use "turn in" and as a number of posts have pointed out, in this context, it implies "reporting them to police" – htm11h Jun 14 '16 at 12:54

The most common use of the phrase is "to turn oneself in (to authorities)" meaning to voluntarily surrender. For instance, "A man wanted by the state on a parole violation escaped arrest by U.S. marshals in Cambridge on Tuesday, but turned himself in on Thursday." http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime-and-courts/wanted-man-turns-himself-in-dane-county-authorities-say/article_db042f0b-544b-5ade-9934-e45b8a1706c4.html

However, it is also perfectly possible to turn in a person (reveal his/her whereabouts to law enforcement) "Shadi Ahmed Mataua had been turned in by his father" http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.686477

It is the second use which is appropriate.

And the sentences are in quotes because the article is directly quoting Trump, presumably making the point that the language exactly shows Trump's position.


It means to "rat them out" and inform on their [nefarious ?] doings. With Trump you can never be quite sure.

The Collins Dictionary thesaurus provides several terms for turn someone in

hand someone over, denounce, inform on, blow the whistle on (informal), shop (British, informal), finger (US, informal), betray, sell out, split on (informal), grass on (British, informal), rat on (informal), peach on (informal), squeal on (informal), dob in (Australian, slang)

And finally,

rat someone out

To betray or inform on someone;
The Dictionary of American Slang

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    You're 100% right, of course, but how would, for example, a non-native speaker know you're right, and not just expressing a personal opinion out of left field? Please add references/sources/citations/authority to your answer, or otherwise convert it to a comment (you have the rep for that). – Dan Bron Jun 14 '16 at 1:07
  • @Mari-LouA Sorry, don't know how to give points to the editor rather than the author of an answer! – TrevorD Jun 14 '16 at 12:54
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    @Mari-LouA Thanks to your edit, I not only cancelled my downvote, but added an upvote. I know collaboration and helpful additions like this are the entire point of allowing us to edit others' posts, and we recently have been encouraged to do so for "single line answers", but I would still prefer to teach users to do their own legwork. Being lazy or ignoring the rules, even after being directly informed of what is expected, should carry consequences. And benefiting from the effort of others, who themselves are not rewarded, seems wrong to me. But either way, you improved the answer, +1. – Dan Bron Jun 14 '16 at 12:54

protected by tchrist Feb 5 '17 at 0:21

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