I was watching a speech on TV by someone who said the sentence "..and our country faces threats from within [long pause] and without."

I thought this was wrong and jokingly posted about on social media, but a friend told me that it is in fact 'perfectly correct' English usage and often used in rhetoric.

Is this true? Is it 'perfectly correct' in this context? I've never seen 'within and without' used myself but upon googling the phrase it does seem to be used in old English texts, such as this quote in The Great Gatsby:

"“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”"

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  • 3
    It just means ‘from inside’ and ‘from outside’. – Lawrence Aug 17 '18 at 16:59
  • it's not a collocation. It's simply words in a sentence stating two closely-related ideas. As Steve Martin once observed, "Please hand me that piano" is not a sentence that is often heard, but it's perfectly correct English. – Jim Aug 17 '18 at 16:59
  • 2
    I think you are confused because it uses an obsolescent meaning of "without" - more normally expressed today by "outside". – Colin Fine Aug 17 '18 at 21:00
  • I don't fully understand what you think is wrong about the sentence. If you don't think "without" is used correctly, please explain why, after looking over the definitions given by common dictionaries (e.g. the American Heritage Dictionary's first definition of "without" is as follows: "1. On the outside: a sturdy structure within and without.") – sumelic Aug 18 '18 at 3:19
  • I guess it's because it's not commonly used in speech these days, so I found it a bit odd - pretty much what Colin stated. – rayanisran Aug 21 '18 at 8:10

"Threats from within and without" is a perfectly good usage. If it seems confusing, break it down to two separate sentences:

  • Our nation faces threats from within. (As with spies, a potential revolution, or civil war.)
  • Our nation faces threats from without. (A neighboring empire wishes to invade us and seize our land.)

When both of those conditions are true, the two sentences can be condensed to:

  • Our nation faces threats from within and without.

within OED

In the limits of, or in the inner part of, a space or region, esp. a city or country; in the place or realm.


Outside of a class, body, or community; not in the number or membership; in an alien or foreign community. those (that are) without = ‘outsiders’

As in:

1849 G. Grote Hist. Greece V. ii. xliv. 359 Traitors within, as well as exiles without.

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