My girlfriend messaged me earlier to say "I will drive into town with my mother". I thought this was odd, since she doesn't have a licence. Turns out she meant that her mother will be driving, and she pointed out that it is perfectly fine to say "I will drive" in that case, citing the second usage of the verb from here.

I guess she is right then. Really though? I drive, can also mean I will be in a vehicle that somebody else is actually driving?

  • She could've said "We will drive to the town with my mother." and that would've made more sense. I've never heard someone else saying this before. The dictionary entry doesn't provide an example sentence for this kind of usage.
    – Neeku
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:32
  • @Neeku I've found another dictionary. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:36
  • @EdwinAshworth Link please?
    – Neeku
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:49
  • @Neeku I was assuming you were using 'the dictionary' in the way it is most commonly used here, as if there were only the one (the contributor has got hold of). Were you referring to M-W (which hasn't been mentioned by name so far) here? Their definition certainly licenses the 'travel by car' sense. And though ambiguous, it's certainly acceptable, at least in the UK. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:54
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    {I don't know what "We went for a drive" is, maybe it was mentioned incidentally.} Final proof: "I will drive into town with my mother" (note - copied/pasted from the OP) "We will drive into town with my mother" "They will drive into town with my mother" "The Smith family will drive into town with my mother" Note that it's just a technical coincidence that at the moment cars happen to require 1x driver. In a few years they will require 0x drivers. Many trucks, etc, require 2x drivers. {And consider, as I said, the identical "sail" situation.}
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 13:52

2 Answers 2


It's a bit pedantic to quibble over such use of drive. I've never heard anyone take issue with...

He is sailing to Calais this afternoon
He flew to New York yesterday

...in contexts where he is a passenger (not a sailor or a pilot).

  • I couldn't agree more. I * cough * said this in a comment above. Note too the "converse" explanatory viewpoint: It is now utterly normal for cars to have 0x drivers, and it's commonplace that certain vehicles actually have two drivers.
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 14:23
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    @Joe: I [cough, cough] upvoted your comment straight away - and now I've just seen the one about sail, I've upvoted that too. I seem to remember seeing that driverless cars are due to be legalised on public roads in the UK next year, but so far as I know there aren't yet any pilotless passenger-carrying commercial flights. Despite the fact that autopilots are responsible for less air crashes than "pilot error". Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 14:43
  • It's a good job not many people verb tandem. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 15:16
  • @Edwin: I don't have a problem with "We tandemmed around the New Forest today", any more than "I hoovered the bedroom carpet". Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 15:20
  • But "I will tandem into town with my mother" isn't used enough to decide if there will be one pedaller or two. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 16:25

The second usage of the verb is not taken properly in context. The use of "I" straight before "drive" means in context the first usage of the verb, to actually be driving the vehicle. If she had said something like "Mother drove us to town" or "we drove into town" or similar is far better, and in context puts the mother as the person doing the "driving" and the use of "us" means they both went (or are going, or will be going all depending on the tense used)

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    It's metonymy. Have you never said / heard 'The kettle is boiling'? Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:40
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    @EdwinAshworth So that is similar to 'The car is driving'? If an object can do something, that is not related to the OP's question for a person acting upon an object.
    – KyranF
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:58
  • There's a difference with say 'This car drives well': that's the 'middle' usage (some would quibble about terminology here). I open the door / this door opens easily. With 'the kettle boiled', 'She wanted to get into Hollywood', and OP's meaning of 'I will drive into town with my mother', the literal truth isn't intended, but most people usually understand what actually is intended. What OP's girlfriend said wasn't incorrect, but could have been better worded to avoid the confusion she occasioned OP because of the ambiguity. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 13:57

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