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I have always used something like "moved down the corridor" to mean moving further through the space, and essentially if I were standing there too, away from me. Is this correct?

Because we're talking about a corridor (not "moved down/up the stairs"), I am assuming down/up don't indicate vertical movement. So does that then mean that "moved up the corridor" means to move closer to us?

What exactly is the difference between these two?

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    I don't think that I've ever heard "move up / down the corridor" (except perhaps in the very literal sense). Can you provide examples of these phrases in actual use? Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 5:32
  • Yes it is a strange one. To throw another spanner in the works consider "moved up and down the corridor", which may actually be easier to understand?
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 7:46
  • @FrontEnd That is pacing. Not strange.
    – mplungjan
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 7:56
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    Yes of course, what I mean is consider: He moved down the corridor. Then he moved up the corridor, thought better of it but hesitated, moving up and down the corridor. It is a bit unclear (at least in my head) what exactly happened in that first part until the pacing. Would you just need to add more detail in to clarify maybe?
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 8:06

2 Answers 2

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makes me envision the person moving away from the viewpoint towards the other end.

is less common but does exist, as you can see. It seems to be used interchangeably with down the corridor...

You can also pace up and down the corridor and perhaps some of the ups in the ngram above comes from this.

If I were in a hotel with numbers doors, I would expect to be told to move up the corridor if I was standing near a lower number than my destination.

Compare this to "up the street" or "down the street" - down the street is more common, but it might be appropriate to use up the street in direction of higher numbered houses and vice versa.

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    The examples for "up the corridor", it seems they could be used interchangeably with "down the corridor". The only difference I can think of is if there is a decline/incline it would make sense to use one vs the other?
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 8:03
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    I don't find up the corridor strange. As you say, down can mean away from me, so up can mean towards me (or another person); or it can just mean along. Corridors aren't usually on an incline. Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 8:53
  • @KateBunting I changed to "less common"
    – mplungjan
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 8:55
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    Merriam-Webster gives one meaning of "up" as "so as to arrive or approach", but its meanings of "down" include "along, around, through, toward, in, into, or on", "away from the speaker's point of reference" and "to or in a state of less ... prominence". It's definitely highly dependent on context, situation, and convention. (Look at the rules for geographically going up or down, for comparison.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 10:00
  • Interesting how the ngram for up/down the hallway seems to roughly match up/down the corridor: ngram plot
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 15:59
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The meaning of up the corridor and down the corridor depends on the context.

Up and down are “paired prepositions” that can be used to express repetitive motion. Other examples include in and out, back and forth, and so on.

In many cases, the absolute direction for each of the prepositions can be easily inferred from the context, e.g. the Red Duke was regularly in and out of favor at the White Queen’s court. In other cases, the directions are “off”, e.g. George was based in New York but regularly traveled back and forth to Philadelphia. Logically, George travels forth before he travels back, but forth and back is not as euphonious as the more common back and forth.

In the case of up the corridor and down the corridor, the absolute direction has to be inferred from a broader context. Unlike a ladder or a stairway, where up and down have clear physical meanings, a corridor is typically flat.

Fortunately, words are always connected in some way to human states of mind. This can involve the writer and the reader directly (as described in some of the comments), but up and down can also be used to convey characters’ states of mind, or their relative status.

For example: The skirmishers having fallen, the knights moved up the corridor towards each other. In this case, the knights are moving up to a heightened state of conflict, even though their physical directions are opposite. The use of up for both fighters gives the encounter a kind of symmetry.

In contrast, the use of up for one and down for the other can be used to convey asymmetry: in purpose, capability, etc.

Merriam-Webster gives an example of up and down as paired propositions forming a word in its own right: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/up-and-down

This kind of construction is possible where the words are opposite in meaning, but where both actions can occur in sequence, like in and out. That said, up and down are very basic to human perception, so they may well be a special case.

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