fence in(redirected from fence somebody in)
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1. To construct a fence around a particular area or thing. A noun or pronoun can be used between "fence" and "in." When our kids were little, we fenced our pool in so that they wouldn't be able to access it.
2. To restrict or limit someone. A noun or pronoun can be used between "fence" and "around." If you already signed a contract with them, I'm afraid you're fenced in.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
fence an animal in
to enclose an animal and its area within a fence or barrier. We fenced the dog in to keep it at home. We had to fence in the dog.
fence someone in
to restrict someone in some way. I don't want to fence you in, but you have to get home earlier at night. Don't try to fence me in. I need a lot of freedom. Your last stupid move fenced in the department, making us less effective.
fence something in
to enclose an area within a fence. When they fenced the garden in, they thought the deer wouldn't be able to destroy the flowers. We fenced in the yard to make a safe place for the children.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Also, hem in. Restrict or confine someone, as in He wanted to take on more assignments but was fenced in by his contract, or Their father was old-fashioned and the children were hemmed in by his rules. Both expressions transfer a literal form of enclosure to a figurative one. The first gained currency from a popular song in the style of a cowboy folk song by Cole Porter, "Don't Fence Me In" (1944), in which the cowboy celebrates open land and starry skies. The variant is much older, dating from the late 1500s.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.