I imagine the noun "course" implies a smooth and well-maintained road but the noun "track" implies a rough road and not really maintained. But some dictionary says "on course" and "on track" both are used as "likely to achieve something". Is there any difference between "on course" and "on track" in the condition of the path they take.

  • I wouldn't consider a track to be rough -- consider a race track or a running track, both of which are quite smooth. A trail, on the other hand, could be quite rough. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 6:42
  • Thanks! It's difficult to get it since a truck seems you need boots or good shoes to walk.On the other hand a course you can walk by barefoot. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 9:05
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    I suggest there is no useful difference. Consider whether a race track is different from a race course? There are instances where tracks need shoes but the idea that there's a significant difference and a course you can walk barefoot is a complete red herring. If it was true, it wouldn't be true enough to matter in fact, let alone in language. (FYI: Never "walk by barefoot." Only ever "Walk barefoot…" The difference between either of those and "by foot" is huge, but here it matters not at all.) Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 4:11
  • @RobbieGoodwin Thanks to how to use preposition regarding “walk barefoot”. I mean “race course” sounds appropriate for Formula 1 car racing whereas “rare track” sounds appropriate for horse racing. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 3:16
  • @kimiTanaka Yes but that's not a clear rule. My personal is opposite to yours… I see 'Race course' as more likely for horses and '… track' more likely for cars. FYI, 'use preposition' can never work. A singular proposition always demands an article. Plurally 'how to use prepositions' is fine but singularly, 'a/the preposition' is always necessary. The same is true for all English nouns. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 3:29

4 Answers 4


As nouns the difference between course and track is that course is a path, sequence, development, or evolution while track is a mark left by something that has passed along; as, the track, or wake, of a ship; the track of a meteor; the track of a sled or a wheel.

As verbs the difference between course and track is that course is to run or flow (especially of liquids and more particularly blood) while track is to observe the (measured) state of an object over time.

So on course is more like a being on the designated path while being on track is to work to achieve or reach what is required, irregardless of path followed.

  • Thanks for your reply. Now I can confirm my understanding! Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 9:25

On course is the terminology used for ships and planes that are moving towards a destination point. The paths to that destination point are infinite. Ships and planes travel in open areas which allows captains or pilots to navigate and choose their paths. The line of travel for a train is already laid out on railroad. A train needs to follow a certain path to it's destination. On course implies options and the ability to determine a route versus on track being a clearly defined, proven way.

  • Thanks! It reinforces what I understand the difference between them so far. Commented May 25, 2018 at 3:55

I would take on track to refer to a railroad track, and thus consider it more closely following the plan. While on course is headed in the right direction, I would take it to refer to either a boat or a plane, and thus meaning within acceptable limits as neither of them have a defined position one has to be in at all times.

So on course would mean that things are moving in the right direction and I expect a successful ending. On tract would mean that I expect specific goals and criteria to be met.


On Course is a planned or intended directional route. Ships and planes are navigated on a charted course. On Track is a specific, fixed directional path. Trains run on tracks.

  • Thanks for your answer! Could you please be more specific like the answer I confirmed since I would like to hear different opinion and am interested in different usage if you think the other answer is not sufficent. Commented May 14, 2018 at 3:36

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