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Is there any difference between "She is sitting in back of me" and "She is sitting behind me"? Are they synonymous or are there any different shades of meaning? All the dictionaries that I've looked through only have something to say about the differences in the frequency of usage between American and British English, but not about any differences in meaning.

marked as duplicate by MetaEd Jan 15 '18 at 16:48

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    The answer below is based (loosely, in the first instance) on easily available information; the question lacks this. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 11 '18 at 22:36
  • @oerkelens - Are you sure about that? Judging by the two answers below, it looks like "in back of" is quite grammatical. – brilliant Jan 12 '18 at 9:55
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    Still no evidence of research, despite the recent edit. – Mari-Lou A Jan 12 '18 at 10:03
  • @Mari-LouA - You didn't read the phrase "All the dictionaries that I've looked through..." in my question? – brilliant Jan 12 '18 at 10:07
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    Please provide the results of your research so that others don't repeat what you have already done. Simply saying "All the dictionaries I have looked through..." doesn't show anything other than you may have looked in just one (but it doesn't say which one). – Andrew Leach Jan 12 '18 at 19:52

According to the following usage note there is no difference in meaning between the two expressions and they are both commonly used in AmE:

Although some object to their use, the phrases in back of and the shorter—and much older— back of with the meaning “behind” are fully established as standard in American English:

The car was parked(in) back of the house. Both phrases occur in all types of speech and writing.

(Random House Dictionary)

According to Fowler's Concise Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by Jeremy Butterfield (2015):

A use that is chiefly AmE but familar in the UK and likely to become BrE eventually is back of, meaning 'behind, in the back of' [...] But in back and in back of are unlikely to make the transition, being markedly AmE and un-British

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    You misquote Fowler in your final sentence. In fact, it states the opposite of what you claim for 'in back of'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 11 '18 at 20:43
  • @EdwinAshworth - Can you, please, quote what it actually says there? – brilliant Jan 11 '18 at 21:15
  • @brilliant: Based on my reading, the Butterfield & Fowler entry says that "back of" without the word "in" is familiar in BrE and likely to become a BrE expression, but "in back of" with "in" is not BrE. – sumelic Jan 11 '18 at 21:29

The meanings are pretty similar, I just went and checked my 1933 Oxford Dictionary, fantastic fun to read through. The first sample is mentioned there as one of an 'also' kind of sample dating back to the 15 & 1600s.
Thank you very much for giving me an excuse to fossick through this book, of which mine is in two volumes, both of which are at least 2 inches thick. I love early English and have found some wonderful words, which unfortunately are no longer in general usage

  • A pity you didn't quote directly from the 1933 OD edition. – Mari-Lou A Jan 12 '18 at 11:05
  • The entry in my dictionary is very long, so I just found the info needed. Get me on the subject of words and I can drivel on for ever. – Hilary Jan 13 '18 at 19:14
  • A couple of lines, talking different usages, a little history, spelling... would have been nice. – Mari-Lou A Jan 13 '18 at 19:23
  • OKAY, how about this. In the space lying to the rear of, on the back side of me. On the farther side of, beyond me, (hidden by 1866) Or, That side or surface o any object which is opposite to the front ... 1645. – Hilary Jan 14 '18 at 22:14
  • The examples are supposed to be included in the answer, comments can be deleted any time. – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 '18 at 17:17

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