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I was wondering what the difference is between 内側 and 中 as I understand both mean "inside". However, there are situations when we can use one and not the other.

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The basic concept is: enter image description here

内側 means that spaces are divided by something like fence, and you're standing on the inside ground, while is like that there's a vessel and you're inside it.

The interpretation of Xの内側 and Xの中 is different regarding the X. In the former, X indicates boundary, while in the latter, X is container. If you say Xの中 when X is something with inner room, then whoever in there is likely to be in that space, but when X is a filled material, then they're likely to be packed within it.


Random examples taken from Google image search:

They are thought to be in ガラスの内側 but not ガラスの中:

enter image description here

while he is thought to be in ガラスの内側 or ガラスの中:

enter image description here

and they are thought to be in ガラスの中 but not ガラスの内側:
(well, these are actually ice cubes but never mind)

enter image description here


Extra
There's another (mostly figurative) usage of , that is you can refer what you see through apertures such as: 絵の中, 鏡の中, 画面の中 etc.

  • am sorry but tell me if I understood you correctley something like a car we will say 車の中 since the boundaries are not imaginary and the boundary is 3 dimentional however something like a gate 門の内側?did i get it right? thank you – Ahmed Abdel Moneim Elket May 22 '15 at 12:41
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    You are correct about them but the being imaginary or not isn't really meaningful. I'm thinking how to edit my answer since it's written too rough anyway... – broccoli forest May 22 '15 at 17:51
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    If you break 内側 down, it means "inner" "side" so it implies something has an inner side. To extend on the given example, something like an ice cube wouldn't have an inside surface or inner side so it wouldn't make sense to try to use 内側. – user224579 May 22 '15 at 20:55
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    In your example of the car, 車の中 would mean "inside the car", or inside the space of the car. 車の内側 would mean the inner side of the car, as opposed to, the exterior side of the car. Hope that helps. – user224579 May 22 '15 at 20:58

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