pass / overtake / get past

sunyaer

Senior Member
Chinese
What would a native speaker who is driving his car on the road say:

I am trying to pass the car in front me.

I am trying to overtake the car in front me.

I am trying to get past the car in front me.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I think a native speaker would be most likely to use the first or third sentences, Sunyaer. Using "overtake" would be unusual in the colloquial speech of many native speakers.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    There might be a regional difference here.

    Overtaking is the normal term in BrE. I think passing is the normal term in AmE.

    Have a look at the wikipedia entry.

    Overtaking or passing is the act of driving around another slower automobile on a road.

    Apparently in Australia, overtaking and passing mean different things. You overtake a vehicle moving in the same direction, but pass a vehicle that is stationary or moving in the opposite direction.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Well, Copyright, we members seem to be all over the map with this one. Nat likes "overtake" but not "pass", you like "pass" and "overtake", and I'd probably say "pass" or maybe "get past" in a spontaneous utterance. I might well use "overtake" in writing, but it's not the sort of verb that leaps to my tongue when I'm fighting traffic. :)
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    There might be a regional difference here.

    Overtaking is the normal term in BrE. I think passing is the normal term in AmE.

    Have a look at the wikipedia entry.



    Apparently in Australia, overtaking and passing mean different things. You overtake a vehicle moving in the same direction, but pass a vehicle that is stationary or moving in the opposite direction.

    So if I'm driving in London, am I overtaking all the cars parked on the street? :confused:
     

    eni8ma

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Personally, if I was driving, and there was a slower car in front, I might say any of those three sentences.

    I am Australian, and while it is true that the road rules distinguish between overtaking and passing, that's only for the actual rules. In everyday speech, no one cares too much about any such fine distinction.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Personally, if I was driving, and there was a slower car in front, I might say any of those three sentences..
    Same here.

    However, my first choice would be "overtake". Then "pass" and then "get past" in the example given by the OP. In different contexts, I would use the phrases differently. I would always say "an overtaking menoeuvre", as opposed to "passing manoeuvre", for example. In the passive voice, for the sake of brevity, I would be more likely to say "He was passed by..." instead of "He was overtaken by...". There are situations where my first preference would be "get past", e.g. "Schumacher squeezed Hill into the corner and didn't let him get past."
     

    Archstudent

    Senior Member
    English - North London
    In the UK overtake is the most common term. I've never heard anyone use pass, because pass is usually for oncoming traffic. If you said I passed 3 blue cars on the way to work, I would probably assume they were travelling in the opposite direction to you.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I've never heard anyone use pass, because pass is usually for oncoming traffic. If you said I passed 3 blue cars on the way to work, I would probably assume they were travelling in the opposite direction to you.
    It's strange you should say that, Archstudent. :) British Formula 1 commentators would certianly not agree with you. And this example is from the Cambridge dictionary:
    to go past something or someone or move in relation to it or them:
    You should only pass a slower vehicle if it is safe to do so.
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/pass_1?q=pass

    In fact, I'm pretty sure you've heard pass used this way without even paying attention...
     

    Archstudent

    Senior Member
    English - North London
    Perhaps you are right! I am only giving anecdotal evidence after all, and I'm sure my experience is limited.. In any case overtake is definitely the most commonly used (I don't know about f1 I don't follow it).
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I am trying to pass the car in front me.
    I am trying to overtake the car in front me.
    I am trying to get past the car in front me.

    All 3 are used. My usage is the second and third. But then I was brought up in the UK.

    GF..

    Unfortunately my choice of language gets worse the longer I am stuck behind the f. idiot in front of me. :eek:
     
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    yarique

    Member
    Ukrainian
    Today for whatever reason I wanted to refresh my memory on this matter, only to find out that even the Aussie and Kiwi road authorities can't seem to agree on the meaning of 'passing' vs 'overtaking'.
    NZ:
    • passing - the driver of slower vehicles uses passing facilities (such as passing lanes, slow vehicle bays and diagonally marked sealed shoulders) to let faster following vehicles pass.
    • overtaking - the driver crosses the centreline and uses the opposing traffic lane to pass a slower vehicle.
    Note: These NZ definitions are different from the AUSTROADS definitions.
    Aussie, e.g., SA:
    Overtaking is when you approach from behind and pass a vehicle travelling in the same direction. Most drivers and riders consider overtaking to be crossing to the 'wrong' side of the road to pass a vehicle in front. But, even if you do not cross to the 'wrong' side of the road, you are overtaking if you move into another lane or line of traffic either side of you to pass another vehicle.
    So this seems to be a highly regional thing even when formal language is concerned.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yarique, I don't think the definitions are incompatible. The definition of 'passing' for New Zealand suggests that the slow vehicles pull over at what I would call lay-bys (this is a BrE term), making that vehicle stationary. You'd pass a stationary vehicle but overtake a vehicle moving in the same direction.
     
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    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Yarique's NZ quote includes mention of "passing lanes." Here in the States, at least, we have "slow vehicle" lanes on steep hills - an extra lane will open up, and slower vehicles (bigger ones, or those with less powerful engines) are expected to stay in the right lane, permitting faster vehicles to pass them in the left lane.
     

    yarique

    Member
    Ukrainian
    Yarique, I don't think the definitions are incompatible. The definition of 'passing' for New Zealand suggests that the slow vehicles pull over at what I would call lay-bys (this is a BrE term), making that vehicle stationary. You'd pass a stationary vehicle but overtake a vehicle moving in the same direction.

    Natkretep, you are absolutely right as far as rigorous logic is concerned. Still, I find it mildly amusing that the NZ road authority wanted to point out that their definition wasn't exactly the same as the Aussie one. Also, when in formal context, 'passing' involves an oncoming vehicle in Australia. (I can confirm this, being an Aussie driver license holder.) E.g., 'No Passing or Overtaking' seems to be a very Aussie road sign to me, usually seen before a narrow bridge or causeway. (In colloquial speech no such sharp distinction is made, of course, as kindly confirmed by eni8ma.) The bottom line here should probably be that, if one's own or somebody else's life ever depends on the interpretation of 'passing' or 'overtaking', one shouldn't hesitate to ask for the word to be clarified. :)
     

    zhonglin

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Hi,

    Can you please check my attached picture to see if it's considered as overtaking? If not, is it just "passing"? overtake.jpg
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'd call that "passing", zhonglin. The cars you drew to illustrate the idea seem to be in the same lane. If that is true, I'd call it "dangerous driving."
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I'd say I was overtaking. I'd probably, as a British driver, have my eyes closed in terror - all the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I generally use "passing", MeBenji. There are about 330 million people in the U.S., so some of them may use "overtake". I haven't noticed anybody using that word, however.
     

    MeBenji

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I generally use "passing", MeBenji. There are about 330 million people in the U.S., so some of them may use "overtake". I haven't noticed anybody using that word, however.
    Thank you!

    However, I don't know why get past can't be used according to most of native speakers. If you want to pass (or overtake) the car in front of you, it's because it goes more slowly than yours, so we can considered that this car is kind of an obstacle you have to get past....no??
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I want to overtake - he's going slower than I want to go.
    I want to get past - he's going a lot slower than I want to go, and I've been stuck behind him for far too long.
     

    MeBenji

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I want to overtake - he's going slower than I want to go.
    I want to get past - he's going a lot slower than I want to go, and I've been stuck behind him for far too long.
    The difference is indeed kind of subtle, then. Anyway, great explanation, Andygc.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    As mentioned in a number of posts above, some of us think of passing or going past as being to do with something stationary. That's why it won't work with non-AmE speakers.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    "The left lane is for passing."
    That's one of the highway traffic warnings in Toronto, in which "passing" is to do with moving vehicles.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think it is clear that this is how passing is used in North American English. I was thinking of post 25 which suggested that this worked for most native speakers of English and wanted to say that it doesn't work for BrE and AusE, for example. For us (who keep left), the right lane is for overtaking.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    You get past, say, a house, not a moving car.
    I don't. I get past an obstruction, such as a parked car, or a slow-moving vehicle. We, in the UK, don't build houses on our roads, we build them beside our roads. I go past houses.

    We do use "passing" in BE, usually in the context of lanes of traffic moving at different speeds, and sometimes also to mean "overtaking", but it lacks the implication of something being in the way that is expressed by "getting past".
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    < Response to deleted post removed. Cagey, moderator. >

    You get past, say, a house, not a moving car.
    If I'm driving my car I can only get past a house if it's partially blocking the road. As I said, if it's in the usual place for a house, I go past it. :)
     
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    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    This question has been added to a previous thread. Cagey, moderator

    I call the insurance company for claiming a accident and say "The other driver 'overtook' or 'passed' my car illegally from my right side."

    Are they both correct in AmE? If so, which is more formal in accident claims? Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Americans use "pass". The only people I've seen using "overtake" were British or Australian.

    The issue with "overtake" in the USA isn't that it would be wrong; it's that people might not ever have even heard of it at all so they wouldn't know what you meant. (I didn't know that "overtake" existed until I saw a few foreigners using it on the internet.)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    This is fascinating. So what if it's a metaphorical use? I'd normally say things like "The Ruritanian economy is rapidly overtaking that of other east European countries" or "John's French is improving and he has overtaken most of the others in his class.". What would you say in the USA? Pass?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In my experience, "overtake" is used in AmE but almost always in the sense in which you must increase your speed and catch up to them for some reason - perhaps I'm racing the other car or I want get in front of the other car to stop it (the police overtook the bank robber's car) or figuratively as in Keith's examples. The normal situation (the other car is going more slowly than I would like to go) is just "passing."
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I am trying to pass the car in front me.

    I am trying to overtake the car in front me.

    I am trying to get past the car in front me.
    For a while, I used to investigate accidents and I interviewed hundreds of drivers:

    Usually, at this point I would have had the answers concerning whether both cars were moving, or only one car (your car) was moving. There is no context, so:

    I am trying to pass the car in front me. -> I would see this as slightly ambiguous and ask more questions. “Were both cars moving?”

    I am trying to overtake the car in front me. -> I would assume that both you and the car in front were travelling but confirm this was the case.

    I am trying to get past the car in front me. -> This indicates to me that there might have been some difficulty or danger in the manoeuvre and I would assume that the car in front of you was (i) stationary but in an awkward position or, (ii) was moving or manoeuvring slowly or (iii) you were in a desperate hurry and liable to take a risk... but I would ask more questions.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    This question has been added to a previous thread. Cagey, moderator

    I call the insurance company for claiming a accident and say "The other driver 'overtook' or 'passed' my car illegally from my right side."

    Are they both correct in AmE? If so, which is more formal in accident claims? Thank you.
    You're putting in an insurance claim in Hong Kong? I would use overtake because I think the British usage is dominant in Hong Kong.

    But there's a puzzle there. Traffic is on the left in Hong Kong. Therefore, if you overtake from the left, it's illegal. The right lane is for overtaking. So where are you?
     

    PA_System

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi,
    This question concerns traffic regulations. In the code of my country three particular definitions regarding car movement are distinguished: overtaking (catching up with and passing while travelling in the same direction), passing (catching up with and passing an immobile vehicle) and the third one is going next to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. Is there also a verb which has the meaning of the third definition?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The vehicle coming from the opposite direction is known as an oncoming vehicle.
    I can only think of saying to pass an oncoming/approaching vehicle.

    (cross-posted)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    PA System's thread (from post 43) has been added here.

    Please scroll up, to take note of British, American and Australian use.
     

    PA_System

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I have, nat. Thanks. The thread is fascinating. I think it's important to note the road conditions are different in various countries. In mine, for example, where multilane roads are still few and far between, the instance of passing a moving vehicle in another lane (in the same direction) is quite rare. Most roads have one lane in each direction so this:
    "In my experience, "overtake" is used in AmE but almost always in the sense in which you must increase your speed and catch up to them for some reason - [...]"
    occurs much more often than passing.
    Interesting!
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just a thought about the third scenario. You can say, 'The cars crossed each other' too, though Glen's and e2's suggestions are more common.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I am trying to get past the car in front me. -> This indicates to me that there might have been some difficulty or danger in the manoeuvre and I would assume that the car in front of you was (i) stationary but in an awkward position or, (ii) was moving or manoeuvring slowly or (iii) you were in a desperate hurry and liable to take a risk...
    or (iv) there was too much oncoming traffic.
     
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