As anyone who’s had to explain to the fire department the metaphorical meaning of “this place is on fire” knows, the context in which you use words is very important.
Although you might not be accused of physical violence when you say you’re pulling someone’s leg unless you add no pun intended, misinterpreting the phrase we’ll look at today can definitely get you into some awkward situations.
What is the meaning of the phrase “what are you into”?
The phrase “what are you into?” is typically used as a synonym for “what are you interested in?” or “what are your hobbies?” However, note that in online dating sites this phrase can also be used to ask for someone’s sexual kinks and preferences.
Prepositions and “what are you into?”
One thing that many people dislike about this phrase is that it ends in “into.” Similarly, you will hear endless complaints about the phrase “where are you at?”
The reason for this is that, as it’s traditionally taught, English grammar holds that prepositions should never be used to end a sentence.
The correct way to use a preposition, these people will say, is to place it before the words to which it points.
For example, “to” is placed before “which it points” in that sentence.
If we put the preposition at the end of the sentence instead, we’d end up with “the words which it points to.”
In a situation where formal grammar matters, it’s good to keep in mind that some people have been taught that this is an unbreakable grammatical rule.
Of course, it should be clear from that fact that both versions of the sentence make perfect sense that it is not.
To make a brief point here, grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive.
In other words, it’s defined by how people use a language in real life and not by how people think that language “should” be spoken.
The problems with prescriptive grammar are many, including racist overtones and the changes a language undergoes over time.
Put simply, a grammar rule written 50 or 200 years ago is unlikely to be unbreakable today.
But I digress. Now that we’ve delved into the grammar and changing usage behind “what are you into?”, let’s look at the two ways this phrase is commonly used.
The everyday way to use “what are you into?”
The way most people will use this phrase is as a way to ask what interests someone has.
If you are “into” a particular hobby, it simply means you are very excited about it. In other words, most of the time you can assume that “what are you into?” means the same thing as “what hobbies do you have?”
Grammatically speaking, this phrase is a complete clause and doesn’t need to be attached to other parts of a sentence to make sense. (See our article on clauses vs phrases for a refresher on what those two words mean.)
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll never see this phrase connected to other words in a sentence.
Interjections like “oh” or introductions like a person’s name are common things it might appear next to.
In that case, you will usually want a comma to separate the phrase from the rest of the sentence.
Jay: “Superhero shows aren’t really my thing, sorry.”
Patience: “Oh, okay. What are you into, then?”
Jay: “I love the TV Series “Beef.” I watch it every other week on Netflix.”
Here, Patience politely changes the subject after Jay admits he doesn’t really like the kind of T.V. show she’s discussing.
Judy: “My blind date spent so much time complaining about the grammar of ‘what are you into?’ that I left the restaurant halfway through the meal.”
Meg: “Guess the answer wasn’t ‘being mansplained,’ then.”
This example shows why it’s best not to spend too much time correcting people’s grammar.
After Judy tried to ask her date what his hobbies were, he got upset at her way of speaking and ended up being dumped.
Getting kinky: the second meaning of “what are you into?”
Before we discuss another way to use the phrase “what are you into?”, here’s a brief warning: this second usage is not family-friendly.
After you let that sink in, go ahead and continue reading.
The second meaning of “what are you into?” is to ask about a partner’s sexual kinks.
If you’re not familiar with the word, a kink is also referred to as a fetish.
Essentially, a kink is an uncommon sexual act or preference. Although kinks have traditionally been frowned upon as aberrant and undesirable, most modern relationship experts agree that any consensual act between sexual partners is healthy so long as it harms neither in the long run.
This usage of “what are you into?” started gaining prevalence on Grindr, a web-based dating platform for gay men, but most likely started long before the internet was around to make finding sexual partners easier.
Although the two meanings are very different, just remember that context matters.
If someone at a company dinner is talking about their model train hobby and asks you what you’re into, it’s highly unlikely they’re asking what you like in the bedroom.
Graham: “Maybe. What are you into?”
This example could easily be a series of text messages on a dating site. Joe is asking Graham if he wants to have sex.
Graham responds that it depends on Joe’s specific interests in the bedroom.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.