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Would it be proper to say "I take the 30 to work" (meaning the I-30 freeway) rather than saying "I take 30 to work"?

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    In the U.S., using the with route numbers is mainly a characteristic of Southern California. On the other hand, it is almost always used with bus and train lines: catch the M60 from LaGuardia and transfer to the Brooklyn-bound 4-5-6 at 125th Street. – choster Aug 14 '13 at 19:12
  • "Proper" in this case depends on who you are talking to, and how likely they are to understand the nicknames and shorthand versions of major commuter roadways in your local area. – J.R. Aug 14 '13 at 19:35
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Prepending a "the" before the number connotes a particular 30, as opposed to just any old 30, and suggests that "30" connotes a name.

It is a given that something labelled "30" would only be intelligible among those who are familiar with the usage, and that it's an Interstate highway and not a public transport route number.

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It's very common on the west cost to say "the {road}" where {road} references the number of any given highway. If it's an interstate we always add the "i" before the number. During my travels, I have gotten the impression that using "the" is a distinctly West Coast thing; I don't believe it's common in other parts of the country.

Highway Example:

I take the 30 to work every morning.

Interstate Example:

I take the I-5 to go to Grants Pass.

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The use of the number 30 is too ambiguous in the second statement. You take 30 what to work. Contextually speaking, the first statement will only make sense to people familiar with the I-30. Those unfamiliar are left to infer the meaning of "the 30". To answer the question, the first statement is more "proper," but still leaves ambiguity to those unfamiliar. My recommendation would to be to use I-30 to clearly state that you are taking an interstate (I-30) to work.

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  • It depends on the context. If I'm talking about commuting with someone who lives in my area and is familiar with the major roads, we will frequently leave off prefixes such as I-, US- and State Route-. In that case, something like, "I heard they are closing the exit ramp on 25, so I'm taking 66 to work next week" works just fine. Many traffic reporters, short on time and assuming they're talking to a local audience, do just that. However, if my uncle was coming from out-of-town, and I was sending him directions, I'd be much more particular about refering to roads by their more formal names. – J.R. Aug 14 '13 at 19:34
  • Yeah, that's pretty much what I was saying. Hence the preface "Contextually speaking". In general, prepending a "the," as Cyberherbalist put, is the best approach for properly referring to use of certain travel routes. – Mastergeek Aug 14 '13 at 20:24

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