Suppose you want to ask someone to change from slow lane to the fast lane while driving. What do you say to mean this? From the Web I see that the following two options may be used:

1) Pull into the fast lane. (About 10,200 results given by Google)

2) Move into the fast lane. (About 6,300,000 results given by Google!)

What confuses me is the following results:

3) Pull into the slow lane. (About 18,000 results given by Google)

4) Move into the slow lane. (About 15,500 results given by Google)

Question 1: What is so special about "Move into the fast lane"? It seems that it is used much more than the other sentences, even compared to "Pull into the fast lane".

Question 2: Is there any difference between "pull into" and "move into"?

Question 3: What are the right/common sentences to use in these cases?

  • I think the key takeaway from this is that most people want to go faster, not slower. :-) – Hellion Aug 18 '17 at 14:49
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    "The fast lane" is also used as a metaphor in other aspects of life. And in those aspects one does not "pull into" the fast lane. You move in or get in. – Jim Aug 18 '17 at 15:02
  • If I were giving someone driving instructions it’d be: “Ok now you’ll need to merge into the left lane – Jim Aug 18 '17 at 15:04
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    There isn't a special term for changing traffic lanes. I can change, switch,merge, maneuver, proceed, go, navigate, swerve, advance, accelerate, decelerate, push, get, continue, enter, progress, etc. etc. depending on whether I want to emphasize movement, my relation to the road, my state of mind, my relation to other traffic, and so on. – choster Aug 18 '17 at 15:11
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Question 1: What is so special about "Move into the fast lane"?

"Move into the fast lane" is far more popular than the other sentences because it has a common figurative meaning, rather than just a literal meaning about traffic. Specifically, if someone is "in the fast lane" or "living in the fast lane" we mean that they have an especially exciting and fast-paced, perhaps even dangerous, life. From Cambridge Dictionary:

life in the fast lane ​ a way of living that is full of excitement, activity, and often danger:
Parties and women - he was living life in the fast lane.

We can also use "fast lane" even more abstractly, for anything that is in a fast and exciting mode. So while some examples of "move into the fast lane" are talking about actual automobile traffic, more are probably speaking figuratively about someone making a change to a more exciting life. Running a search for "move into the fast lane" in Google's Incognito Mode (to minimize skewing the search results), the top hits I see are about

"Life in the slow lane" also occurs occasionally, as a contrast to "life in the fast lane", but it's less common as an idiom.

Question 2: Is there any difference between "pull into" and "move into"?

There is a slight connotation of "slowly" and maybe "carefully" with "pull into" that is absent from "move into". In fact, in the abstract, Cambridge Dictionary defines the phrasal verb as

pull in/pull into somewhere
— phrasal verb with pull UK ​ /pʊl/ US ​ /pʊl/ verb

If a vehicle pulls in or pulls into somewhere, it moves in that direction and stops there:
He pulled in at the side of the road.
I pulled into the empty parking space.

Obviously, when one "pulls into the fast lane" or even "pulls into the slow lane" you aren't bringing the car to a stop; however, there is still a slight suggestion that the maneuver is fairly gradual and also probably smooth, which the plain "move into" doesn't convey.

Question 3: What are the right/common sentences to use in these cases?

Any of the four sentences are fine, depending on what you want to convey. "Move into the fast lane" is much more common than "pull into the fast lane" for the figurative usage, because that kind of shift is probably not particularly gradual. I suspect it's also more common for the literal meaning of the term, for the same reason. That pattern is slightly reversed for "into the slow lane", because there one is going slower.

Pull into is using a specialised meaning of 'pull' applicable to motor vehicles.

The common idiom is to say I 'pulled into' at least in the UK, where I can speak from experience.

See this definition here:

Pull in/pull into somewhere

If a vehicle pulls in or pulls into somewhere, it moves in that direction and stops there: He pulled in at the side of the road.

I pulled into the empty parking space.

- Cambridge Dictionary

So if you write or say I moved into the fast-lane, you might be in a motor vehicle or on foot. Perhaps you are toying with your own life, and crossing a motorway on foot. Most people of course would assume when you say you moved into the fast-lane that you were in a vehicle, but literally this doesn't need to be the case.

Pull into removes any ambiguity (however small), as it is particular to vehicles. A vehicle can pull into the fast lane, a person on foot can not!

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