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The screen was showing a close up of some buildings in ruins. Excavators and bulldozers [...] debris aside, while the survivors watched the work with anguish and despair on their faces.

OK, I guess I could use put. But I think it sounds too soft for such heavy work. I also thought of push but I guess excavators don't actually push things? (unless push can also be used for 'grabbing things and putting them aside').

So I can't think of the proper verb. Any suggestions?

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    Moved? (And actually, bulldozers do push) – Andrew Leach Oct 4 '13 at 13:05
  • @Andrew Leach I know. I was talking about the excavators. Moved is good choice. Thanks! – janoChen Oct 4 '13 at 13:42
  • The technical name for the operation is '(site) clearance' -- beyond that it's up to the author and the contextual mood to determine an appropriate word to be used. – Kris Oct 4 '13 at 14:03
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    What Kris said, so in your case, you can say the bulldozers were clearing debris. – Kristina Lopez Oct 4 '13 at 19:24
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Clear?

  • based on what they're trying to achieve

Shift?

  • includes lifting (diggers) and pushing (bulldozers)
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Shove? To shove is to push.

Excavators shoved debris aside, while the survivors watched the work with anguish and despair on their face.

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How does thrust sound?

Machines can be used to thrust debris aside.

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Clear/move/remove (without aside)

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I must really be at my wits end for writing this. It would depend upon what you wish to infer. Put implies commonness, disinterest, a sense that the do-er (in this case the bulldozer drivers) have not a clue or a care about the effects of their actions.

Shove implies a more aggressive intent, almost a punishment, ill will among the do-ers. A poet here answering this.

One might imply indifference; one might imply malice. Your call.

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