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Language tip of the week: subway

Learn English with Macmillan DictionaryIn this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, usage, etc.

This week’s language tip helps with the differences in meaning of subway in American and British English.

In the UK, a subway is an underground tunnel that people can walk through to get to the other side of a busy road: It’s safest to use the subway to get from the car park to the museum. In the US, this is called an underpass.

A subway in the US is an underground railway in a city: Take the subway to 14th Street.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • Hi Jonathan. Thanks for that. These distinctions are rarely as clear-cut as they appear, are they; and I suspect that there is more and more common ground between the two varieties. Of course for many people the image that is evoked by the word ‘subway’ is a well-known US-based purveyor of bread-based snacks, the ‘sub’ in this case referring to the US name for a long thin bread roll.

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