Fill In or Fill Out?

My Adult Literacy League students ask the best questions! Here is one from my most recent ESL (English as a Second Language) student: “What is the difference between ‘fill in’ and ‘fill out’?”

Of course, I gave her my usual response to these questions: “Umm . . .”

I had to think about all of the ways we use these phrases. We might say that someone who has been too thin has ‘filled out,’ meaning gained some weight, in a good way. We might say that a child has “filled in” their drawing by coloring the pictures.

My student’s question was prompted, however, by this phrase: “Fill out the form.” Contrast that instruction with “Fill in the blanks.” πŸ˜•

I finally decided that we use “fill in” for the smaller tasks and “fill out” for something larger. But I’m not sure that is correct. What do you think?

By the way, the reason I am posting this blog at this particular time is because this student, who has been in the U.S. for 9 years with her husband, is from Ukraine. Last week’s class was lots of fun; this Monday’s class began in a very somber and sad way. Her son is safely in the Czech Republic, but many family and friends are still in Ukraine. At the end of class, she looked at her phone and then at me, “This is the first hour in several days that I have spent not watching the news or my phone.” I almost cried. I am sure that coming to a new country and learning a new language is difficult. I hadn’t added what it must be like to also worry about the people and country you have left behind. 😟

To those of you who work or live in the Maitland area, I have a small request. Because her husband is a long-distance truck driver, he is gone for weeks at a time. She is trying to improve her English so she can feel more confident talking with her neighbors and meeting people. We meet every Monday at the Maitland Starbucks, but I’m sure she would appreciate meeting some of you on other days, even if just to chat for a few minutes. If you are interested, please let me know.

Thank you and send LOTS of prayers.

6 thoughts on “Fill In or Fill Out?”

  1. I appreciate you sharing this story (and also: what a brain teaser trying to explain the difference between “fill out” and “fill in”!). Thank you for sharing your time and energy with your student. You are awesome.

    • Hi, Zach! It’s good to hear from you.
      I’m glad you like the brain teasers that my students give me! And thank you for your encouragement! It’s always appreciated :).

  2. FYI, you’ll be pleased to hear that one of our subscribers has offered to spend time chatting with my student! Go, Laura!! ✨


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