This has been asked before but I didn't understand. I am no English student, but can someone explain how these two statements could mean different things?

Xylem and Phloem within a vascular bundle are arranged in an alternate manner.

Xylem and Phloem in a vascular bundle are arranged in an alternate manner.

I think they mean the same but my biology book says they're different. I'm not asking which of the statements is correct, only the difference.

  • 1
    How does your biology book suggest that they are different? Commented Mar 24 at 15:00
  • @KateBunting my book only says that the first statement is correct and second statement is less correct. The reason it states: 'although both statements seem to be similar use of "within" and "in" cannot be used interchangeably in every context.'
    – Hdje
    Commented Mar 24 at 15:41
  • 2
    It seems strange for a biology book to be discussing the meanings of non-biological words. However - if things are 'in a bundle' they are gathered together. If something is within a bundle, it is enclosed inside that bundle. Commented Mar 24 at 15:50
  • @Lambie - I know what a vascular bundle is. I was just surprised that a biology textbook should be concerning itself with whether in and within are interchangeable. Commented Mar 24 at 15:56
  • There was a past year exam question where there were 4 statements, and we had to choose the incorrect statement (when all statements are correct/incorrect we are to choose the most appropriate-this is given on the first page of the test). The second statement that I have quoted was the answer. The first statement is written in the main biology textbook that we use. But our extra module was giving the explanation for the choice of the answer.
    – Hdje
    Commented Mar 24 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


Xylem and Phloem within a vascular bundle are arranged in an alternate manner.

Xylem and Phloem in a vascular bundle are arranged in an alternate manner.

The distinction is this:
The first means that xylem and phloem are inside the bundle. inside can be said within.

The second means that they are arranged or ordered in a bundle, which does not mean inside it or within it.

The clothes were in a bundle, and there was a mouse inside it aka within it.


Kate has stated the major distinction. Here, we consider only the prepositional usages, and avoid less central metaphorical usages.

'Within' demands enclosure in a container (literal or metaphorical), and the container (italicised in the examples below) is usually distinct from the items within.

  • within a goldfish bowl (literal, locative usage)

a: before the end of

  • gone within a week b: (1): not beyond the quantity, degree, or limitations of
  • live within your income [your available money]

(2): in or into the scope or sphere of within the jurisdiction of the state

(3): in or into the range of

within reach

within sight

(4) — used as a function word to indicate a specified difference or margin came within two points of a perfect mark

within a mile of the town [within an area reaching a mile out from the town]



'In' can imply a container or just the assemblage itself:

  • in a goldfish bowl

  • in a jumbled mass

  • within the bundle is not enclosure in a container.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 24 at 18:36
  • Notionally, it is. 'A bundle of newspapers was lying on the porch'. Not 'were', even for those seeing notional agreement as the better approach. 'Metaphorical', line 3. Commented Mar 24 at 19:22

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