Is is the pair of expressions "in range" and "out of range" just an idiomatic outlier?

Maybe not, as you can put something "in the list" or take it "out of the list".

But I can think of other in/out pairs which seem to be more symmetric:

  • She's gone out / she's gone in
  • My paperwork goes from the "in box" to the "out box"
  • Go "in the door" or "out the door"
  • Inside vs outside (or indoors / outdoors) [granted, these are compound]

So what's the rule that governs the use of "out of" vs just plain "out"? (If any)

  • 5
    As prepositions on their own, in has two base meanings (motion into and location inside), whereas out only has one (motion out of). In cases where in refers to location, its opposite is therefore out of, which does have both the motion and location meanings. In fact, since out as a standalone preposition is fairly limited, the same is true of many locative cases as well (you can go out of the door and be out of doors as well). So it’s not that range is special, it’s just a basic property of the prepositions. Apr 18, 2019 at 14:44
  • 1
    In sports: in bounds, out of bounds.
    – KarlG
    Apr 18, 2019 at 14:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet +1 to your comment. Just a note that colloquial AuE allows "he's gone out the door".
    – Lawrence
    Apr 18, 2019 at 15:02
  • @Lawrence Oh yes, I think that’s fairly universally accepted and probably preferred; but even in cases where out is more common, out of is often also an alternative. Apr 18, 2019 at 15:07
  • 1
    Your box analogy is wrong. A piece of work is either in the box or out of the box. It's just that you have two boxes, one labeled "in" and one labeled "out".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 19, 2019 at 1:49

4 Answers 4


When you put an object, 'A', into a container 'B' you say that A is 'in' B. If you remove B from A you say that you have taken B 'out of' A.

I suppose the OP usage - 'in'/'out of' (range) is following this logic.

The same usage is found with figurative situations, for example 'luck' and 'favour'.


The 'of' is a genitive of origin.

  • In sight/out of sight
  • In time/out of time
  • In range/out of range
  • Indoors/out of doors

Conceptually something is 'within' a containment. It is fixed in location. It is 'in' and no more need be said in order to fix it, conceptually.

But if it is outside of the containment, we require a preposition. It is not just 'out' as opposed to 'in'. It has become un-locatable because it is 'out of'.

The 'of' specifies that to which it has become un-fixed so that, now, we do not know where it is.

But we do know its origin. So we use a genitive of origin - 'of'.

EDIT I have just noticed @Dan 's answer and it seems I have, inadvertently, duplicated it, to some extent. Looks like we agree, anyway. (+1 to Dan.)

  • 1
    Regarding your "EDIT" - keep this answer. I find it the more persuasive of the two. +1
    – Lawrence
    Apr 19, 2019 at 11:33

If out doesn't require a complement, you don't need of:

(1) *I walked out of.

(2) I walked out.

If out requires a complement, the complement by default should be in the form of 'of + NP' unless the complement denotes not a space but a boundary, in which case the complement is more likely to be in the form of an NP:

(3) I walked out of the room. (space)

(4) %I walked out the room. (space)

(5) %I walked out of the door. (boundary)

(6) I walked out the door. (boundary)

Both (3) and (6) are well formed.

(4) is possible only in informal American English.

(5) is possible in British English but probably not in American English.

As for abstract nouns such as 'range', they denote a space rather than a boundary, and omitting 'of' sounds plain wrong.

  • Great answer +1 Apr 19, 2019 at 10:45
  • I don't think #5 "walked out of the door" works in BrE unless the person started inside the door, as opposed to behind it.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 19, 2019 at 11:36
  • @Lawrence Then, you must be disagreeing with all the answers here. english.stackexchange.com/q/39765/27275 Good luck.
    – JK2
    Apr 19, 2019 at 13:07

In Middle English, the prepositions out and out of were both in use where modern speakers would only use out of:

… he wæs ut of þis lande gefaren [travelled] — Peterborough Chronicle, 1121.

Þare cam An Naddre out þe gras. — South English Legendary: Infancy of Christ, ca. 1300.

: He preide hym myche that he shulde nat put hym out of the cuntreie. — Mark 5.10, Wycliffe Bible, Early Version, ca. 1384.

Who wyll owte egypt in to affryk passe … þis wey is þe best. — Life of Saint Katherine of Alexandria, c. 1475.

For the most part, broader use of prepositional out seems to have narrowed during the late 15th c. The modern standard usage is far more restricted: not only is it always directional, never locative, but it seems confined to a particular set of openings: one can run, fall, look, stumble, etc. out the door or out the window. And one can look out a hole in the wall if it’s large enough that you don’t need to look through it, but in standard English, you can’t jump out a hole in the wall; you have to jump out of it.

In certain American dialects or informal speech, including AAVE, one can run out the building/out th’ house, but some British speakers object to any prepositional use, preferring out of instead.

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