My friends and I were walking down from the road. The road was too steep, so I said:

I am climbing down the road.

As I used to climb down with the word road, we had argument, and my friends said that climbing down the road is not correct usage. Were they correct?

  • That’s certainly a picturesque way of describing your traversal of the steep incline.
    – Lawrence
    Dec 3 '17 at 10:48
  • 'Walking down the road' means you're on the road, usually going downhill (though 'down' has broadened senses). 'Walking down from the road' means you're no longer on the road. Which is it? // 'I climbed down the road' might make sense after a major earthquake. Dec 3 '17 at 11:20

In general, you can only climb down something that you can also climb up. "We climbed up the tree, and then we climbed down." Climb also implies using both hands and feet in most cases. Since you didn't climb up the road, and you didn't use your hands and feet, then yes, your friends are correct.

  • But maybe you did climb up the road, if it was really steep. Anyhow, I think you're right about it having to do with what you're doing with your hands and feet.
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 4 '17 at 0:16
  • Kenneth, your answer is more concise than mine, but lacks the "ascend" meaning of climbing. I think you could improve your answer by using some of the research I did. With your conciseness, you'll easily keep the best answer rank! See my answer for details.
    – Mark G B
    Dec 4 '17 at 22:18

When one is climbing a road, they are ascending. When it comes to roads, the words climbing and ascending are synonymous. When one climbs a mountain, one is also ascending, but one is not on a road. Use of hands and feet, and climbing tools may be required, and one can climb down. Climbing up, and ascending are synonymous in that instance, as are climbing down, and descending.

But if you are on a road, climbing down and descending are no longer synonymous. You would hear descending. You would not hear "climbing down". I don't know technically why, but I do know you would likely not hear "climbing down" in conjunction with forms of travel on a road. You might see usage that the 'road' climbs down, but even that would typically be stilted and unusual.

While one can climb up a road, one cannot climb down a road. You would be descending, rather than climbing down.

Edit: After consideration, I think I understand WHY one would not "climb down" a road. I went to dictionary.com, and got these:

verb (used without object)

1. to go up or ascend, especially by using the hands and feet or feet only: to climb up a ladder.

6. to proceed or move by using the hands and feet, especially on an elevated place;

Climbing can be ascending, which is why we can climb a road up the hill. Or it can be moving using the hands and feet, which would be the usage example "I climbed up the mountain." Again, using the hands and feet, one could climb back down the mountain - or the tree, or whatever one did the Spiderman routine to ascend. But when one removes the hand and foot part of the action, one is limited to ascending as the meaning. And one does not ascend down. Thus, one would not climb down the road. However, I can not refrain from noting that an artistic and clever writer might be able to use climb down in just this way to somehow provide a more evocative sentence. But we won't find it in everyday usage.

  • I've never heard of someone climbing a road, whether up or down, in the USA. Dec 3 '17 at 23:49
  • Yeah, I think common usage would be that a road might climb. Still, ever heard of Pike's Peak? Here's a quick google brought up this quote from a forum post: "I'm going to be taking a vacation to CO. over 4th of July weekend. I was thinking about climbing pikes peak on my road bike but wasnt sure how long this takes? "
    – Mark G B
    Dec 3 '17 at 23:56
  • Fair, but unless the OP's use case has a mountain involved, I think mountain roads are an exception that proves the rule. Dec 3 '17 at 23:58
  • Ah, ya think so, eh? Ok, then, check this page: rei.com/learn/expert-advice/climb-hills.html, I have to admit, both examples are cycling related, but that's probably because I'm a cyclist and google is biased based on previous searches. Still, maybe you are right. Think about how you might answer this! :D
    – Mark G B
    Dec 4 '17 at 0:14

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