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On the topic of giving directions, I'm not sure whether I should suggest someone to "turn into the right lane / the driveway / Long Road" or "turn onto the right lane / the driveway / Long Road". The answers to this question seem to suggest that as you drive on the surfaces of roads, you should be turning onto them. But an example from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English says otherwise:

"She cycled up the street and turned into Long Road."

And so does a simple Google search. Notice there are instances of "turning left into either lane", "turning into a driveway", "turning left into a multi-lane road" among the results.

A user at forum.wordreference.com suggests that whether you drive in or on a road/path, it could depends on the particular types of roads wherein "the concept of an inside would be apparent".

Is that wordreference user right? If so, what exactly are the types of roads that give you the concept of "an inside"? Such a concept is perceived based on what criteria? When do you turn into a road? When do you turn onto it?

  • You turn into a road when you are a collection of asphalt applied to the ground. – fixer1234 Feb 20 '17 at 10:20
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Here's where I make the distinction. You drive "on" roads, like you said, but you turn "into" entrances.

Example 1: Drive for three miles on First Street. When you reach the intersection at A street, turn right ONTO A Street. Drive straight on A Street until you reach the entrance to my subdivision. Turn left INTO the subdivision. Drive two blocks and turn right ONTO my street. Turn left INTO my driveway.

Example 2: To reach the freeway, take Avocado Avenue until you reach the on-ramp. Bear left ONTO the on-ramp. When you reach the freeway entrance at the end of the on-ramp, safely merge INTO the freeway traffic.

Does that help?

  • +1 for the explanation, though I'm not sure if it's correct. – NVZ Feb 13 '17 at 8:18
  • @NVZ - Looks good to me! – aparente001 Feb 20 '17 at 4:35
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It would be a matter of fact if one were on the road, or off the road.
A road is a fixed public route, or extended travel surface.
The road is the means of getting from one destination to another.
One turns onto a road, or, off of the road.
Anything off the road is a destination.
If leaving the road , one is turning into the destination.
When returning to the road, one is going back onto the road.

I turned off Bumpy Road into Skruffy's, had lunch, and got bask on Bumpy Road.

I turned onto the westbound on ramp of I-3.7, merged with the traffic and went about 10 miles.

I turned onto Easy Street and after a couple of blocks turned into my driveway.

A car is parked in a driveway or parking lot (destinations). A car is parked on a road.

I turned onto the the goat path that led to Johnny's shack.

The goat path would be an extended travel surface, not a destination. A driveway or parking lot is a destination because that is where one is going. One would not be going to a goat path. (If one were actually going to the goat path as a destination , one would turn into the goat path).

Although there can always be exceptions in English, as a rule one is always on a road, or (with)in a destination when referring to road travel. Distinction of the two words on and within should handle almost everything.

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I think there is a concept of hierarchy here, like when you go from a higher road to lower road, you go INTO. And if you move to equal or higher road, it is ONTO. Overall, multiple roads meeting into a bigger road or bigger roads breaking into smaller roads. The hierarchy becomes apparent somehow.

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Architects and urban designers are often concerned with the 'space between buildings' or 'public realm' as being equally or more important than the buildings themselves.

TURN INTO: A street, viewed from this urban design/sociological perspective, is a space (sometimes demarcated by edges formed of buildings, trees, vegetation, etc.) which contains and shapes human activity. The same could be said of a public square, a campsite or a campus. Once we enter the semi-private and private realms, the same language applies: the plot of a private home, the driveway, the entrance hall, the living room. These activity containing spaces (the set of the great drama of life) are turned INTO.

TURN ONTO: From an engineering perspective, the road/street/lane is the linear infrastructure, maybe formed of hardcore over compacted ground, finished in asphalt and painted with road markings. The road, street and even driveway can be seen from this perspective. In this context they are turned ONTO.

  • But isn't a street always "a public road in a city or town that has houses, shops etc on one or both sides" (LDOCE5)? How can streets be viewed from different perspectives like you say? – Vun-Hugh Vaw Feb 22 '17 at 2:49
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+50

I think the distinction comes down to the question - that is, whether you are asking "where" or "where to".

Where are you riding your bike? In the road. Where are you riding to? Into the road.

With regard to whether you should use "on(to)" or "in(to)", I don't think there is a conceptual difference in the example you provide. My feeling is that "on(to)" would be more widely used in US English and that "in(to)" would be more common in British English.

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    You're on the right track regarding American versus British English, but OP was asking for a "credible source". – Spencer Feb 26 '17 at 13:03
  • I was, but apparently that's pretty much hopeless now – Vun-Hugh Vaw Feb 26 '17 at 14:33
  • @Spencer Yes, I'm British and agree with you. But I also think there is merit in what appstauq says in their answer. Personally I would turn "into" a side street, but "onto" the main dual carriageway. – WS2 Mar 18 at 23:48

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