There must be air molecules for sound to travel.

There must be air molecules for sound to travel on.

Which is better, "travel" or "travel on"?

  • The meanings are different. The first is cause and effect. The second is how it happens. – user3169 Sep 1 '16 at 17:22
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    The sound (as described in physics) is the vibration propagated as pressure waves in the air. So, if we want to be less technical, I would say that sound travels as waves through the air. – djna Sep 1 '16 at 17:29
  • Would anyone really say that sound "travels on waves of air molecules"? To my mind, sound is waves (of air molecules) - so in order for sound to travel, what it needs is air (or some other medium capable of forming waves). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 1 '16 at 17:30
  • @FlumbleFingers I have edited my question.Plz, answer my question, travel or travel on. – learner Sep 1 '16 at 17:39

Travel would be better, as on is not a correct preposition here. Sound travels 'through' the air. An analogy is to say we drove through, the countryside in a car. The country side maintains its position, the car does not.

Also ote the distinction between the boat travels on the water, the submarine travels through the water. The former is on top of the water, the later is surrounded by it. Thus you could say sound travels in air, but not on it.

The on/in distinction can be confusing when talking about travel. You can say travel in a car, but not on a car, but you can say travel on a bus, plane, train etc. In the latter case though we say in First Class, in the Carriage when referring to the part used for traveling. We use on when referring to the whole where something that has a large enough floor area to stand on, (working as a contraction of upon), and where we distinguish between travel and location, hence on the train but in the carriage. The distinction can also referrer to (en)closed/open: in a car but on a motorbike. Its idiomatic, though, you can say sat 'on' the top deck of a double decker bus, even though it has less room than a train carriage. That's because the term deck comes from ships where they are always open.

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