This dictionary says that "in over your head" is typically used with "be" or "get", but can you use it with "go"?

For example:

"I'm taking so many courses on coursera that I forget everything the next day, because of such a large amount of information. I think I went in over my head."

  • Eh, it's a bit off, but no one would complain. Better to say "was in over my head", though. Or you could get a bit more creative: think I jumped into the deep end too soon, or something,
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 31, 2018 at 23:14
  • @DanBron More or less agree. The only thing that’s really jarring to me here is the past tense, which doesn’t fit the narrative. “The next day” is a bit confusing, but it seems like the narrative is present-based, so “I think I’m in over my head” would work better. And while “I think I went in over my head” is a bit off, “I think I’ve gone in over my head” sounds almost entirely unremarkable to me. I doubt it would even register as unusual to me if I heard someone say it in casual conversation. Oct 31, 2018 at 23:38

1 Answer 1


In a word: nope. "Go in over your head" just doesn't fly. In your example, "got in over my head" is a perfect fit.

Of course, there's also the expression "to go over one's head", which is completely different but may create some confusion. It means something is too complicated for someone to understand. "Quantum physics goes over my head, as much as I would love to understand the basics."

The toughest thing of any language is its idiomatic expressions. They often make no sense, and follow no logic whatsoever. They assert their own rules. We learn them by ear and use them impulsively. They defy close scrutiny.

No clue why they are the way they are. It's a head scratcher. Must be that each refers to some long-forgotten, well publicized story. Say some famous figure misjudged his/her swimming prowess and got taken down a peg during the rescue. Undoubtedly, as usage of a newly minted phase "ha ha! Help me never get in over my head like Pat did" spread to the masses, the cognoscenti would nod when they heard it, smiling because they knew just the incident that had given life to this new expression. People misusing it simply revealed their own ignorance.

Or at least I guess some reason like that is behind the stubbornness we feel about word choice and usage when it comes to these colloquialisms. We're bound by unwritten laws when we trot out such fanciful turns of phrase.

But wait: their misuse can actually be powerful. Breaking the laws purposefully and cunningly can reinforce the notion you are expressing. Breaking them clumsily will distract from your intent. It may not be time to give up on your idea, and to risk going in over your head.

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