Ins and Outs: the Definition of this Idiomatic Expression (with Helpful Examples)

The idiomatic expression “ins and outs” is one that you may hear or see quite frequently in conversation and writing. Here you will find the meaning of this phrase along with the story of its origin. You will also see some examples of how to properly use this phrase in conversations/statements and be given some suggestions in regards to alternative ways to say the phrase while conveying the same meaning.

Ins and Outs

Ins and Outs Meaning

The phrase “ins and outs” is a descriptive phrase typically used to describe someone who knows all about a certain subject or object.

Origin of this idiom

This phrase most likely came from the world of politics.

The first person to mention “ins and outs” in the political sense was Chaucer in his poem titled Troilus and Criseyde published sometime between 1381-1386. The next mention of the phrase “in and outs” in the political sense was found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson in the year 1814. The political version of the phrase was used to describe two parties, much like we have the Democrats and Republicans today. The parties were referred to as the ins and the outs. It was not until well into the nineteenth century that the meaning of the phrase “in and outs” as we know it today was adopted to mean the small details of something.

“Ins and Outs” Examples

Examples in Statements

A statement made by a police officer searching for a missing girl that became separated from her mother in the mall.

  • “We know we will find her. We are currently working with mall security who know all the ins and outs of the building.”

A statement made by a veteran musician in an interview with a recent entertainment magazine.

  • “It is essential for those new to this industry to be aware of all the ins and outs. If you don’t, this industry will chew you up and spit you out.”

Examples in Conversations

A conversation between a manager and appointed team leader.

  • Manager: We need to make sure and choose people who are not only reliable but also know what they are doing.
  • Team Leader: Okay, then I say we go with Daniel, Evelyn and Pete.
  • Manager: I am on board with Daniel and Evelyn. I am not sure I agree with you on Pete. I do not think he has been here long enough to know all the ins and outs of the process to complete the project.

A conversation between an older and younger sister.

  • Younger Sister: I need to start my college applications. Most people have already started to do them.
  • Older Sister: Well, I can help you with that.
  • Younger Sister: You can? But you didn’t even go to college.
  • Older Sister: Yeah, well, it doesn’t mean I didn’t do the whole “college application thing.” I know all the ins and outs.

More useful examples:

  • He quickly learned the ins and outs of the job.
  • I can’t tell you all the ins and outs of the situation over the phone, I’ll write to you next week.
  • I don’t really know all the ins and outs of the matter.
  • I found I needed to spend quite a while learning all the ins and outs of the system.

Other Ways to Say “Ins and Outs”

There are many alternative ways to say the phrase “ins and outs” and still convey the same meaning. Some of the other ways you can say this phrase include:

  • Nooks and crannies
  • Tips and tricks
  • Intricacies
  • Details

Ins and Outs | Image

Ins and Outs