I came across this sentence from a news article, saying "Police used force in arresting protesters." And I thought that this sentence should be like "Police used force to arrest protesters."

After a brief survey, I realized that both are grammatically correct. Could anyone tell me about the differences between "to arrest" and "in arresting"?

Thank you for your help.

  • 1
    The cited text isn't very idiomatic compared to many alternatives - including simply deleting the word "in" (there's nothing wrong with Police used force arresting protesters, but most people would include when or while in such contexts). The difference between that continuous form and the infinitive (to arrest) is that using the latter implies they needed to use force to achieve their goal (arresting protesters), whereas the version actually used simply says that force was used (regardless of whether it made their job any easier or not). Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 18:31
  • The simple infinitive (and, indeed the simple form of all tenses) indicates a complete action from start to finish; the "-ing" form indicates (i) the process of the action a point or points within its duration and (ii) refers to an ongoing action that was not complete at the time referred to.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 19:25
  • @FumbleFingers, your comment seems to amount to an answer; why not post it as such?
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 22:18
  • @jsw29: Because I voted to migrate the Q to English Language Learners Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


You could always use the term “forcibly” although I cannot think of a any situation where “force” is not involved in arresting someone; (except maybe when a message is left asking someone to “turn themselves in”.)

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