In Whom Do We Trust?
A reader asks,
Could you please explain the difference between “I trust in him” and “I trust him”.
The grammatical difference between “I trust in him” and “I trust him” is the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb:
I trust him. The verb is transitive because it has a direct object, “him.”
I trust in him. The verb is intransitive; it has no object. The prepositional phrase “in him” tells where the trust is placed.
The transitive form of the verb comes up most often in a Google search:
You just can’t trust Google Maps
You can’t always trust your eyes
You Can Trust a Skinny Cook
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
The intransitive use of trust followed by in implies a belief in the goodness and reliability of the person or thing being trusted:
In God We Trust (slogan on U.S. coinage)
We must trust in basic British decency to beat the racist BNP
Don’t make the mistake of trusting in technology to solve all educational problems.
Intransitive trust can also be followed by the preposition to:
The sailors trusted to the winds and the current to bring them to shore.
We must trust to our own wits to survive.
Only a fool would trust to him to save the day.
With to the sense seems to be “rely upon” rather than “believe in.”
As a noun, trust is frequently followed by an in phrase. Here too, the in implies an expectation of goodness:
Restoring trust in the European parliament
How much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government?
Trust in the Internet is crumbling
To get back to the reader’s question about “I trust in him” and “I trust him, ” I’d have to say that for some speakers there’s probably no difference, but for others, trusting in someone or something may suggest more of an emotional investment.