Assuming "sleep in" and "oversleep" mean the same thing, it seems there's something missing in "sleep in." What is supposed to follow after "sleep in?"

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    The first is intentional, the second is accidental. Nothing is supposed to follow 'sleep in'. Apr 6, 2021 at 7:25
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    I have voted to re-open coz I cannot find a dupe. However, this Q needs some work: please show a minimum of research and explain why that does not help... Apr 6, 2021 at 19:47
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    The question is worthy of being addressed on this site, because, as Mr. Leach pointed out in his answer, the nuance that it is about 'may not be entirely clear in dictionary definitions'. The question could, however, be more elegantly formulated: in particular, it is awkward to ask in the title whether the two terms mean the same, and then begin the body of the question by assuming that they do. Also, the two parts of the question could be more clearly separated.
    – jsw29
    Apr 6, 2021 at 21:39
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    "sleep in" seems to be an example of a phrasal verb, which is formed by combining a verb with one or two prepositions and/or an adverb.   For example, "look after" means care for, "look for" means search, "look into" means investigate, "look up" means research, "look up to" means respect, and so on; see also Why do some verbs have “directions” as adverbs? and Why do we use 'up' as adverbs for verbs?   The meaning of the phrasal verb is often unrelated to the meaning of the preposition. Apr 7, 2021 at 2:24
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    Maybe the OP is confused because "sleep in" can be a phrasal verb with no object, but it can also be just the verb "sleep" followed by "in + noun", for example "I was evicted from my home and now I sleep in my car".
    – alephzero
    Apr 7, 2021 at 12:42

6 Answers 6


Although the use of in may imply being in something, it's not said.

It has much the same usage as stay in:

"Are you going to see the carnival?"
"No, I've decided to stay in."

As commented, it usually indicates a deliberate (or at least, non-accidental) action. That nuance may not be entirely clear in dictionary definitions.

sleep in Phrasal verb

  1. Remain asleep or in bed later than usual in the morning.
    ‘life assumes a different rhythm on the weekend; we sleep in, cut the grass, wash the car’

  2. Sleep by night at one's place of work.


Oversleeping is generally not intended to happen.

Sleep longer or later than one intended.
‘we talked until the early hours and consequently I overslept’


  • 5
    Doesn't "stay in" imply "inside my house"?
    – Zachiel
    Apr 6, 2021 at 18:09
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    @Zachiel The impliction for "sleep in" is exactly the same as "stay in", as I indicate. It's probably best expressed as "inside the comfortable environment I really don't want to leave," which is why that mouthful is simply expressed by the idiom of leaving it out altogether.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 7, 2021 at 9:19
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    @AndrewLeach If I say "I decided to stay in bed this morning" or "stay inside" or "stay in the house" it makes sense...if I say "I decided to sleep in bed this morning" people are going to wonder what I do the rest of the time. Apr 7, 2021 at 15:59
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    @AndrewLeach "Staying in" is also symmetric to "going out".
    – Polygnome
    Apr 7, 2021 at 17:22
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    I've never heard that second definition of sleep in used before.
    – spacetyper
    Apr 8, 2021 at 6:02

Sleep in often means intentionally staying longer in bed

It doesn't necessarily mean asleep at the end interestingly enough, and might include activities such as breakfast in bed

He knew that he would have a good sleep in the next day

Oversleep often means accidentally sleeping too long

Suddenly she woke up and realized she had over-slept

If you are late for work you would apologize for having over-slept but if you said you had a sleep in your boss would give you a strange look (US culture).

  • 9
    I've only heard "slept in" used for sleeping. "Slept and then maybe some other stuff (like reading or watching tv)" I've always associated with "lie in." Apr 6, 2021 at 18:16
  • 5
    And I've never heard "sleep in" as a noun. Can you provide a source for that?
    – istrasci
    Apr 8, 2021 at 2:15
  • I've only ever heard lie-in as the noun, despite the fact that I'd use sleep in as the verb
    – Tristan
    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:00
  • It is an interesting question, but probably difficult to answer conclusively, whether staying in bed for some time after waking up should be regarded as a part of the meaning of sleep in (as is argued in this answer) or just as something that is usually associated with it (but not strictly speaking a part of its meaning).
    – jsw29
    Apr 8, 2021 at 16:27
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    I think this is an American distinction. In the UK, "oversleep" is rare in either context.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 8, 2021 at 20:54

Language Log gives an interesting insight on the use of the preposition “in” for the expression “sleeping in” meaning sleeping late:

The original idea of the "sleeping late" sense is that "in", meaning "in one's house" or "in one's bed", is opposed to "out", meaning "out in the world" or at least "out of bed". In addition to the OED's reference "to lie in", there's the verbal form "to stay in", and the noun "shut-in", with similar meanings of "in one's dwelling". The idea of being "in" rather than "out", associated with sleep, then takes on the extra connotation that one is staying "in" while sleeping during a period of time when one normally would be "out".

  • The Language log article is somewhat confusing "To sleep in" can mean to sleep on the premises or, and this is unrelated, it can mean to oversleep. The two are unconnected. "The "sleep late" sense of sleep in seems to be one of these quasi-idioms, whose entry into general usage is apparently fairly recent.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 8, 2021 at 22:17

"sleep in" seems to be an example of a phrasal verb, which is formed by combining a verb with one or two prepositions and/or an adverb.  For example, "look after" means care for, "look for" means search, "look into" means investigate, "look up" means research, "look up to" means respect, "look down on" means disrespect, and so on; see also Why do some verbs have “directions” as adverbs? and Why do we use 'up' as adverbs for verbs?  Phrasal verbs are basically a sort of idiom, and the meaning of the phrasal verb is often unrelated to the meaning of the preposition.

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    In all of your look examples, the preposition introduces a prepositional phrase with an object. That is not true of sleep in.
    – phoog
    Apr 9, 2021 at 8:03
  • Others would include lie in, tuck in, ask in, bash in, book in, box in, bear in, cash in, clock in, clue in, colour in, count in, swear in, scrub in, and countless others. Like "sleep in" and "lie in", generally these phrases are used in a way that doesn't specify what they were lain, bashed or asked into, only what/who was lain, bashed or asked, etc. Nov 20, 2023 at 22:32
  • Convenient list of similar terms: en.wiktionary.org/w/… Nov 20, 2023 at 22:32

By sleeping-in we mean sleeping a little longer than usual. Suppose you wake up by 6 AM every day. So on a Sunday you might sleep till 7 AM or a little later. Over-sleeping, on the other hand, means sleeping longer than one intended to. For instance, when your alarm rang, you hit the snooze button but then fell asleep again and woke up one hour later. That's over-sleeping.

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    What exactly does this add to the answers already posted by Andrew Leach, user 66974, and Michael Durrant?
    – jsw29
    Apr 8, 2021 at 16:19

I hope this clears it up for you.

"oversleep" is only used when one has an obligation to attend to at a more or less specific time, and they unintentionally sleep too late to be able to carry out that obligation. It is only deliberate if one is prone to laziness.

EXAMPLE If you are supposed to meet someone at 9:00 AM and you wake up just before or some time after 9:00 AM, then you've overslept. Maybe you forgot to set your alarm. No matter the cause, the time at which you awoke prevented you from arriving on time. You would tell the other person "I overslept." (unless it's your boss😁)

Present - (I, you, they, we) oversleep; (He, she, it) oversleeps

Past - Preterite: overslept ("I overslept".) Imperfect: oversleep ("I used to oversleep.")

Gerund - oversleeping

To "sleep in" means to make an intentional/deliberate choice to sleep later than is customary for you. The prerequisite for using "sleep in" is that you have no pressing obligations during the time you choose to sleep later than is customary for you. People have different sleep schedules, so the term is used relative to an individual's customary time for getting out of bed.

EXAMPLE Let's suppose you usually get out of bed no later than 9:00 AM on any given day. But one morning (or the prior evening) you find yourself in need of more sleep, and you have no pressing obligations to attend to. So, you decide to sleep until 11:00 AM. Deciding to sleep later than is customary for you is called "sleeping in". If you make this decision the preceding evening can you can say "I'm going to sleep in tomorrow." You can even say it days in advance if you know you'll be needing extended sleep at some future date - example: "It's only Wednesday and I'm exhausted from work. I'm going to sleep in on Saturday."

There's one more example that involves customary sleeping/waking behaviors. Suppose you and a friend always get together at 5:30 AM on Saturdays to go fishing. But one day (let's say on a Friday, the day before you ordinarily go fishing) you decide you will be too tired to get out of bed early enough to join your friend. You can tell you're friend: "I'm not going fishing tomorrow. I'm very tired. I'm going to sleep in." This example has nothing to do with the latest time you ordinarily allow yourself to sleep. Instead, it has to do with a customary behavior (going fishing at 5:30 AM on Saturdays) that requires you to wake at a specific time. If you choose to sleep beyond this customary meeting time, you can use "sleep in".

Citations: over 50 years of using them

  • 2
    What exactly does this add to the answers already posted by Andrew Leach, user 66974, and Michael Durrant?
    – jsw29
    Apr 8, 2021 at 16:18
  • Why exactly do you ask, and what gives you authority to ask? If you're an admin and can't see the additional benefits of my post, you need to be relinquished of your post.
    – Mark
    Apr 10, 2021 at 15:37

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