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Is I run in the subway grammatical? Does it mean the action of running, done inside of a subway?

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What is the context? What are the surrounding sentences? – Mitch Apr 25 '12 at 1:15
No context, no surroundings... it is an example in a text explaining German grammar and the example needs to be stripped to the very core... the difference between "I run in the subway" and "I run into the subway"... The point is to show that English doesn't always mark whether a motion is AT a place or TO a place and this serves as an example where it actually is marked :) – Emanuel Apr 25 '12 at 9:20

Interesting difference in American and British English here.

Here in the U.S., if I heard someone say, "I run the subway," I would assume they worked as a manager for the commuter rail service.

Moreover, if they corrected me, and said, "No, I mean, I run inside the subway," then I would imagine that they ran in the railway tunnels, and marvel that they hadn't been arrested or electrocuted yet.

Yet my online dictionary cleared up the matter rather nicely:

enter image description here

So, back to the O.P.'s question: I imagine it would make perfect sense in the U.K., but would be rather confusing to many Americans.

Note: this answer was composed when the original question read 
"I run the subway" sans the preposition *in*.
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Ooh. It had "in" when I answered. I'd assumed it meant the American version, and thought of sprinting down the stairs, along the platforms and back out the other end. But the British "pedestrian tunnel" may well be right. It doesn't make a great deal of difference to the question. I suppose it's an object lesson in getting the question just right before you type anything. – Andrew Leach Apr 24 '12 at 22:02
In Britain a subway is a short underground walkway - usually, just an alternative to an above-ground footbridge for pedestrians to get across a road. You'd certainly be discouraged from running in one, as with cycling. Firstly, there's the danger of collisions with other pedestrians. Secondly, you might be mistaken for a mugger making his escape, so some public-spirited person might knock you down and make a "citizen's arrest"! – FumbleFingers Apr 24 '12 at 22:05
Interesting. As an American who used to be a regular subway user, I'd assume the person was making a joke that the way they get their excercse is by attempting to catch the next subway car before it closes its doors and starts to pull away. – T.E.D. Apr 24 '12 at 22:18
I wonder how to say "I am travelling by the subway now"? "I am riding by the subway"? – Anixx Apr 24 '12 at 23:48
@Anixx - In the U.S., two common ways to say it would be: (a) "I am on the subway now," or: (b) I am riding the subway" (no preposition needed). – J.R. Dec 1 '14 at 13:37

While the sentence "I run in the subway" is entirely grammatical, whether it expresses what you want to express is perhaps debatable.

"I run in the subway" means that you make a habit of it: every day (for example) you go out for a run, and you run in the subway.

If you are describing what you are currently doing, I think it's more likely to be expressed with the present continuous, "I am running in the subway."

Given the comments, if you are actually including the question mark [now edited out] in the quote, "I run in the subway?" is not a grammatical question. "Do I run in the subway?" would be grammatical, meaning "Am I in the habit of running in the subway?" or "Am I running in the subway?" meaning "Am I doing that at the moment?"

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Yes, you are right; but are you agree that, whatever 'Am I running in the subway' is, it doesn't make sense. Why might someone ask himself if he is running in the subway? – Elberich Schneider Apr 24 '12 at 22:04
(Shouts into phone) "Am I running in the subway? Am I running in the subway?! No! I'm making a rice pudding!" – Andrew Leach Apr 24 '12 at 22:08
"Since you've lost your memory, I'll tell you what you love to do most: running. You even go running in the subway sometimes." - "I run in the subway?" Granted, an unlikely scenario, but what's not grammatical about the sentence with the question mark? Still +1 for a more detailed (and more immediately understandable) answer than the accepted one. – Amos M. Carpenter Apr 25 '12 at 9:37
I don't see why "I run in the subway?" is not a grammatical question? - even if it is not an interrogative clause. – Araucaria Dec 1 '14 at 2:15
@AndrewLeach Do you mean it's not grammatically an interrogative clause or do you mean that it's not grammatical? The former's true but the latter'd be a bit misleading. If you said 'it's not grammatically a question', that might work too, although it could still be a little bit misleading, imo :) – Araucaria Dec 1 '14 at 12:47

As to grammaticality and literal meaning:

  • 'I run in the subway.' means that you regularly run and you do it on the subway platform, tunnels or even car, or, slightly differently, that of the instances you are in the subway, you run instead of walking.

  • 'I run in the subway?' has the exact meaning of the former, but transformed into a question purely by question-intonation (the rise in tone towards the end). It is not common in standard AmE but might be regional (the pattern was made notable in 'My Cousin Vinnie' when the plot turns on a Southerner hearing someone from New Jersey saying the question form 'I killed that man?', the Southener misinterpreting it as a confession).

But this is all somewhat academic, in more ways than one. Most standard English speakers (even including the varieties that I am mildly aware of) just don't talk like that, they just don't use the simple present form very often. Sure, the construction is what you're taught on the first day of English class (as EFL) and all standard English speakers recognize it as acceptable: 'I run', 'you cry', 'he/she/it talks'. But more often you use the progressing "I am running", or you use a lot of extra qualification "I run in the subway everyday of the week as a workout" or "I always think someone is following me down there, so I run in the subway". But these aren't particularly common situations, at least not semantically.

Also, there's another 'weirdness'. You just don't say 'in the subway'. Sure it's 'grammatical' but, really, what do you mean? The subway car, or the platform or the tunnel (surely no one goes in the tunnel , but that's really the only good stretch to run in, the rest it's just not practical. And you are 'in' what? You ride on the subway car, you are on the subway_ platform, you're not allowed to be in the subway tunnel, and if you refer to the subterranean transportation system for travel, you say 'I took a ride on the subway/Metro/Underground/T/L/etc'. There is no in of the plain and simple 'subway'. Unless you are in a building of the fast-food chain.

The point of all this? Sometimes writers of foreign language learning examples come up with some pretty weird situations.

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+1 for a good Answer (apart from an errant apostrophe), but from Asker's explanation given in a comment below the Question, I surmise that he started with a couple of German example sentences, likely Ich laufe in der Unterführung and Ich laufe in die Unterführung. Next, he set out to contrast this with English grammar and translated using a Ger-BrEn dictionary. Had he used a Ger-AmEn dictionary, he would have used "underpass" instead of "subway". Things went awry when he chose simple present instead of present continuous. At least, that's my guess but I could be wrong. – Eugene Seidel Apr 25 '12 at 14:39
Gah!! I've passed on the extra "'" to my local fruit and vegetable purveyor. – Mitch Apr 25 '12 at 15:11
+1 thorough answer. Yet a bit too strict I have to say... "in the subway" is sure not some weird phrasing. There is a song with it in the title en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Sleep_in_the_Subway and typing it in Google does yield lots of examples. So... either all those internet people don't speak English correctly or "in the subway" is ok after all and only gets weird once you start to think about it. @Eugene: I did not use a dictionary to find subway... and Unterführung was not the origin. It was U-Bahn. But I guess you just went by what your dictionary suggested. – Emanuel Apr 26 '12 at 11:55
@Emanuel I'd be a poor interpreter if I had to look up common words in dictionaries :) Anyway, not only am I in agreement with Mitch that I run in the subway (present continuous would have been the better choice) is jarring to an American ear, Ich laufe in der U-Bahn is, too, to a German ear, although less so. Try it with your German friends. Some will surely ask, Meinst Du im U-Bahn-Waggon? Oder im Tunnel? – Eugene Seidel Apr 26 '12 at 12:12
@Emanuel: well, I did allow that it is grammatical. It's just that the situation feels strange (and with respect to Eugene's comment, might be purely semantic. In the end, it's grammatical but sounds robotic, like it is making some very generic statement without recourse to context - as is often the case in foreign language teaching examples. – Mitch Apr 26 '12 at 13:17

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