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If we can say "I am running to catch the train", is it also appropriate to say that "I am going to the office early to catch the boss"?

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Catching a train is idiomatic (you're not running to grab hold of it physically while it is moving - see 6th definition of catch at Dictionary.com). Catching the boss is sometimes used, especially with a before prepositional phrase (I've got to catch the boss before he leaves today), but that meaning of catch is only informal.

More formal would be I am going to the office early to see the boss.

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What is the standard and more formal alternative? "Reach" has a similar meaning but ignores the notion of time. – Dave Mar 30 '12 at 12:18
Why say "catch" at all? I'd suggest see, if you want to be formal. Meet with, if applicable. – Daniel Mar 30 '12 at 12:25
I said "catch" to emphasize time. – Dave Mar 30 '12 at 12:27
Well, I'm afraid "catch" doesn't really convey urgency. It sounds like a spontaneous gesture, maybe because it's informal. I realize "see" doesn't convey urgency, either, but I think that the verb there doesn't need to convey urgency. "Going early" helps. The fact that you're seeing the boss conveys a sense of importance, and not being able to miss the appointment. I think it's fine with "see". If you want to make it seem more urgent, you should probably add a sentence stating the fact: I am going to the office early to see the boss. It's really urgent. – Daniel Mar 30 '12 at 12:32
I agree that "catching" a person does not convey urgency as "catching a train" does, though it does express opportunity. So @Dave, if you're asking if it's an appropriate corollary use, then no. If you're asking if it's appropriate etiquette, as we seemed to have interpreted the question, then it depends on the level of formality in your office and with your boss. – chrisdillon Apr 1 '12 at 3:06

I talk about "catching so-and-so before he leaves for the day" and similar wording all the time, and I've heard many others use it routinely. I'm frankly surprised by those who say they'd only use it when the boss is not around or that it would depend on their relationship to the boss. I'd never thought of it as offensive or demeaning or anything like that.

Note that "catching someone" is also used to describe having a romantic relationship, especially from the woman's point of view. As in, "Sally wants to catch Bob". And there's an idiom that "So-and-so is a good catch", meaning he is a man that women would consider a desirable husband because of his wealth, status, manners, good looks, etc.

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I think it's the spontaneity implied by saying "I'll catch you before you leave." that makes me hesitate to use it in reference to someone who is a busy person (like a boss) or someone who has to have a structured schedule (like a boss). Does that make sense? You know how those hallway meetings where you catch someone have a way of blossoming into time-suckers? – JLG Mar 30 '12 at 13:51
I agree with @Jay. "Hi [boss], I'm glad I caught you." "[boss], did I catch you at a bad time?" - I don't see anything wrong with these. – chrisdillon Apr 1 '12 at 2:51

Sure, I have heard that used with people (e.g. "I'll catch you later."). However, I'm not sure I'd use it in reference to a boss. It implies that she does not know you're coming to catch her. (It might be wiser to send an e-vite first!)

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If you aren't talking to the boss, it's OK to use the phrase. +1 – Irene Mar 30 '12 at 12:21
Even if you are talking to the boss, it's fine. I would not have a problem saying to the boss "I want to catch you before you leave today". – user16269 Mar 30 '12 at 12:25
Depends on the boss and your relationship. I would have a problem. – JLG Mar 30 '12 at 12:31

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