We were going to be allowed to travel on / by the trains.

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usingenglish

Senior Member
Spain,spanish
Hello.

What is the difference between these sentences?

- We were going to be allowed to travel on the trains.
- We were going to be allowed to travel by the trains.

Thanks.
 
  • El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    - We were going to be allowed to travel on the trains.:tick:
    - We were going to be allowed to travel by the trains.:cross:
    The second sentence would be correct if you said "We were going to be allowed to travel by train". In English, modes of transport are referred to in singular.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Wouldn't "We were going to be allowed to travel on trains." imply that someone is already allowed to travel by train but just for instance on its roof and not inside?

    Tom
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    No. "On" is acceptable, in referring to modes of transport, at least in British English. "They came from all over the country; they came on buses, on trains, on every available mode of transport..."

    Equally "I meet the same people on the train every morning" is correct, but does not suggest they are wishing each other a good morning while balancing on the roof!

    That's not to deny that "by" train, plane, bus etc is the more normal expression. (And "They came in buses, in trains.." is equally possible.)
     

    usingenglish

    Senior Member
    Spain,spanish
    Hello.

    Then, is the same thing to say "by train" and "on trains"? What is the difference between "on the trains" and "on trains"?

    Thanks.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    There is a subtle difference between them. "He travelled by train his whole life" - that was his only mode of transport. "He travelled on trains his whole life" - he made a habit of travelling by train, but it wasn't necessarily an exclusive mode of transport.

    "He travelled on the trains" isn't completely wrong, but the use of the definite article means that particular trains are being identified, which makes this use unlikely.

    Native (British) English speakers use another informal expression - "My dad worked on the buses/on the trains - meaning he worked for the bus company or the railway company. This is still a commonly-used phrase, but not in the context you are referring to.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    There is a subtle difference between them. "He travelled by train his whole life" - that was his only mode of transport.
    I don't agree. "He travelled by train his whole life" suggests to me that man used trains all his life to travel, but it doesn't tell me that this was his only mode of transport. :confused:
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Accepted; to be absolutely clear, it would have to be "He travelled only by train his whole life". Depending on the context, I would still be strongly inclined, personally, to infer that he travelled only by train during his lifetime.

    A better set of examples then: "He travelled to Spain by train", and "He often slept on trains when he visited Spain". In the first, "by train" and "on trains" are interchangeable; in the second, "by train" cannot be substituted.

    I fear that, as is often the case, the original poster had his answer half a dozen posts ago! I think we are all agreed that you cannot say someone travels by the trains, that it might be possible, but unlikely, to say someone travels on the trains, and that, depending on context, our joint recommendation is one or other of "by train" and "on trains", with "by train" likely to be the most commonly used.

    I hope that accurately sums up the thread for usingenglish.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sorry, but on trains sounds really weird to me.

    Connie: How did you get here today?
    Daniel: I came by train.
    Daniel: I came on the train.

    Either would sound natural to me. By train seems a bit more likely.
     

    usingenglish

    Senior Member
    Spain,spanish
    Hello.

    What is the difference in meaning?

    - On trains / in trains / on the trains / in the trains.

    Thanks.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Hola usingenglish,

    Our recommendation is that you should use the expression "by train". That is the expression used to describe that mode of transport. "I came by train", "I go to work by train".

    "In trains" is not an expression that is used; nor is "in the trains" ever used.

    "On trains" and "on the trains" are possible expressions in particular contexts but would not be used in the sense you are asking about. I suggest you do not use them.

    Therefore, to return to your original sentence, you should say "We were going to be allowed to travel by train".
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Accepted; to be absolutely clear, it would have to be "He travelled only by train his whole life". Depending on the context, I would still be strongly inclined, personally, to infer that he travelled only by train during his lifetime.
    Looking at your other sentence, "He travelled by train his whole life", I might assume that he preferred to travel by train. :)
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I read "He travelled by train his whole life" as entirely neutral. There is nothing there to inform us as to his preferences, or whether he chose the train or had no other option (perhaps he was physically unable to drive, or simply didn't know how to). It's a simple statement of fact, no?
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    I read "He travelled by train his whole life" as entirely neutral. There is nothing there to inform us as to his preferences, or whether he chose the train or had no other option (perhaps he was physically unable to drive, or simply didn't know how to). It's a simple statement of fact, no?
    That seems reasonable to me. :)
     
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