on the road VS on a road

magic dragon feeders

Senior Member
Japanese
I'd appreciate it if someone would answer my question about the following sentence(A). Thanks in advance.

A: My house is on the road and a lot of vehicles pass that road at a very high speed everyday. Due to their speed the dust accumulates on the windows of both front rooms facing the road. Dust even enters the rooms. (source ---google)

Would the meaning of the first sentence change, if you replaced "on the road" by "on a road"?
What's the difference between these 2, if there is any difference?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    A: My house is on the road and a lot of vehicles pass that road at a very high speed everyday.
    One difference between "a" and "the" is that "on the road " (also written "right on the road") is an idiom saying your house is very close to some road. It is much closer than 10 meters away. Using the idiom, the sentence does not mention a specific road (like "a road" does), and "that" needs a specific road to refer back to. So to use "that" you should use "a". But very few readers will notice the difference.

    You can get that same meaning (very close to some road) by saying your house is "right on a road" instead of "on a road".

    ------------------------------------------------

    But there is another problem: "pass A" means "drive past A". It does not mean "drive on A". The cars pass your house, not your road. Here are some suggested wordings:

    My house is right on a road, and a lot of vehicles drive on that road at a very high speed every day.
    My house is right on a road, and a lot of vehicles pass my house at a very high speed every day.
    My house is right on a road, and a lot of vehicles drive past at a very high speed every day.
    My house is right on a road, and a lot of vehicles drive by at a very high speed every day.
     

    magic dragon feeders

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    -- Thank you dojibear. I see your idea.
    By the way how about "on the street", as in "You cannot be too careful while crossing the street (general sentence)". Is "on the street" an idiom too? If so, in what situation or context is it used?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Yes, "the street" is often used to mean a generic location: you can be "in the street" or "on the sidewalk" or "indoors" or "at the beach". We say it is dangerous for children to play in the street, there is an injured cat in the street.

    I guess it is used any time you want to say a kind of location (street, sidewalk, porch) rather than a specific location (a street near the bank).
     

    magic dragon feeders

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you dojibear. Should I use "the mountains" and "the suburbs" and "the countryside" in the same way?

    Another question please. What's the difference between "on the street" and "in the street"?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Yes, those 3 are also used generically. I live in the suburbs. He lives in the city, and is uncomfortable out in the countryside. We go skiing in the mountains.

    In general "on the street" means standing on top of it, while "in" mean within the physical bounderies". So you could actually use either one and be correct, depending on what you want to emphasize.

    Cars often drive "on" or "along", pedestrians often walk "in". "Right now I am standing on the curb. If I take one step north I am in the street". One step south and I am on the sidewalk". But different idioms use different words.
     
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