Is it correct? It's the message I see right before the metro/subway train shows up.

Shouldn't it be "train is approaching" or "train approaches"?

  • 1
    see the answers to this question, which is related to what you're asking.
    – Benjol
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 12:04

3 Answers 3


Either way this is just a fragment, so the question is what is the rest of the sentence? Your suggestions read as follows, to me:

The train is approaching

A train approaches

I usually interpret it as the following:

There is a train approaching

There's clearly a lot of flexibility when you're only seeing a fragment of the sentence.

  • I think its only "train approaching". It might be "The train approaching". Its showed on the monitors, I feel it might not be correct or too short? There is no "is" in there!
    – IAdapter
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 8:49
  • Yes, it is shortened; as Joe said, it is a fragment. It is not uncommon in signage: 'No Smoking' for example.
    – user3444
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 9:04
  • @Reg, yes that's what I meant, edited to clarify. Thanks. Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 12:05
  • 1
    @010: There are rules for fragments too. When you turn a sentence into a fragment, you leave out words that can easily be inferred. You start with the words least important for meaning, then go on until the fragment becomes unintelligible. In "the train is approaching", "the" is the first word that would be left out, "is" the second; so you cannot leave out "is" while keeping "the". That is why "the train approaching" sounds odd. "Train approaching" is OK. Besides, I think "a train is approaching" would have been more logical as the full sentence. Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 13:25
  • +1: It's basically just saying: "[be advised... there is a] train approaching." The "there is a" is understood.
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 1:55

Yes, it's "correct". It is there to carry information, from the metro system to you, namely, that there is a train approaching. And that you should step back ;-)

In all this "proper grammar" and whatever, we (me included, see my rant-with-a-lot-of-comments ;-)) tend to forget that language serves a purpose, to wit, to carry information from A to B (where A to B are very often, but not always, individuals). And as long as it manages this task, to the satifsaction of, well, A and B, all's well.

In this case, I don't see any "failure to inform". So there, job well done, language! Good language, yes, good language! pats language on, uhm, head?

  • However we are molested all the time that we did write something wrong, so person whom has created this information should have perfect grammar as well. I did not see the "is" there, so I thought I might be wrong or that person is wrong :)
    – IAdapter
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 11:43
  • @010, Unless you are in a context where it is appropriate for people to be correcting your English (eg at a school where you are studying English), people telling you that your writing is wrong is like people telling you that your clothes are wrong: it's none of their business. (If you are trying to communicate with them and they actually cannot understand what you mean, then it might be their business. But most of the time, people who want to "correct" us know perfectly well what we mean: they just want to prove their superiority to us).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 17:34
  • Is should be added that, when we communicate, we don't just communicate that which we want to communicate: bad spelling also conveys information, but not (necessarily) information that you want conveyed. So, sometimes the people who point out your (lapses in) dress may just want to help you not look like an idiot. YMMV, of course. Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 19:42

I would say it depends on where you are stood and the information being conveyed. If you are on the platform and you can see or hear a train then the message is providing specific information.

The train approaching platform 5 is the 4:15 to Skegness

This also implies a connection, not always correct, to the next train arriving. To say

There is a train approaching ...

can be confusing, there may be several trains approaching, are you talking about a specific one or all trains?

Whereas if you were on the train the announcement would be

The train is approaching Skegness.

as this is specific to the train you are travelling in.

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