English Vocabulary Lesson – To Drive vs. To Go By Car

Michael Confusing Words, Conversational Phrases 7 Comments

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I always drive to the train station every morning. It takes less than 10 minutes by car, but it would probably take half an hour to walk. I’ve never walked to the station. I take the train from the suburbs to Manhattan. Some of my friends come to work by subway, but there are no subways where I live, so that’s not an option for me.

A lot of readers have asked me about the difference between phrases like go by car and drive, so for today’s English vocabulary lesson, I thought I would talk about this point.

When the main topic of the sentence is the way or method of transportation, we use phrases like by car, by train, by subway, & on foot.

  • Some of my friends come to work by subway.
  • It takes less than 10 minutes by car.
  • The only way to reach that part of the beach is on foot.

However, when the main topic of the sentence is not the way or method of transportation, we generally use expressions with the verb. Have a look at these two sentences:

  • I went to the beach with my friends by car. Here, the speaker wants to focus more on the method of transportation than the trip to the beach.
  • I drove to the beach with my friends. Here, the speaker wants to focus more on the trip to the beach, than the method of transportation.

Unless the topic of the sentence is the method of transportation, native English speakers tend to use transportation phrases in the verb, like the following examples:

  • Jack needs to wake up early because he is flying to Istanbul in the morning. Not, …going to Istanbul by plane.
  • When I drove to work this morning there was a lot of traffic. Not, when I went to work by car…
  • Jane usually takes the subway to her grandmother’s house.

How do you usually get to work or school? Leave a comment in the box below and I’ll check it for you.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!

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