• walk across the tunnel
  • walk through the tunnel

Which one is correct? Can anyone explain me the exact difference between the through and across? I am really confused with these 2 prepositions.


7 Answers 7


"Walk through the tunnel" means to enter the tunnel on one end and emerge out the other end.

"Walk across the tunnel" could mean the same thing, but only if the context establishes that. It could also mean to enter the tunnel through a side entrance, and exit out another side entrance (i.e. the short way, not the long way); or it could mean to go across the top of the tunnel (e.g. if it's underground and the road goes over it); or variations on those themes.

In general, "through" implies entering the middle of something and then going out the other side, whereas "across" implies crossing the middle, but not necessarily going in the thing you're crossing.

  • 1
    I have heard "across the USA" and "across the globe". Now, how will you explain them? I walk across the street OR I walk through the street. Which one is correct according to you?
    – hellodear
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 6:49
  • @hellodear2, if it's long enough, you can walk through the grass (because it's brushing against your legs as you go), but it'd be kind of hard to walk through the street, don't you think? And what is it about "across the globe" that you feel needs explaining?
    – Martha
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    -1 We do not use Walk across the tunnel in AmE to mean enter one end, walk the tunnel's length, and emerge from the other end.
    – GoDucks
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 16:22
  • @Martha As you say, you can walk through an area by entering the middle of that area then going out the other side. "We made a shortcut through the grass" can mean "We went across this grassy area". The grass need not be long.
    – Era
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:33
  • @Era: I dunno. To me, "through the grass" implies at least some grass brushing against your legs; otherwise, "through" is the wrong preposition. Oddly, though, I'm fine with a "shortcut through the field".
    – Martha
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:49

Across is used with surfaces, places, flat objects/areas, or things that you are "on."

Across is also used if it's important to mean "on the other side of", or "moving over" something like a river, hole, bridge, etc.

Through X is used if you are surrounded by or "in"/"inside" X.

So you go through a tunnel, but not across it. If you say you went across a tunnel, it would mean you somehow went over and on top of the tunnel (likely perpendicular to it) and avoided going in it.

You might go through a tunnel to get across a mountain range, though.


Both of these words are used to indicate a movement from one place to another.

Using "across" is somehow like using on. We usually use across to talk about moving from one side to the other, usually on the surface. It is used for a two-dimensional and open space (across a wall, city, sheet of paper, road and ...).

  1. We took a boat across the river.
  2. Looking out across the ocean, he saw land.

Using "through", however, is somehow like using in or inside. Imagine a place which is surrounded by something (for example a tunnel or a forest which is covered with tall trees). When we want to move from one side of this surrounded place to the other, we use "through". Through is used for a movement in a three-dimensional and covered place.

  1. I am driving through the tunnel.

  2. She loves walking through the forest.

About grass and lawn, if we are talking about a place which is covered with tall or long grass, we should use "through":
long grass

When my dog runs through long grass, it’s difficult to find him.

but if we are talking about a field covered with short or small grass or lawn, we should use "across":

Tomorrow at this time you'll be chasing peacocks across the lawn.

  • In works with both 2D and 3D shapes - so you can be in both a flat square and a cube. If a strong focus is on those 2D boundaries you might still use through to describe moving through a flat space. For example: "He is trespassing through my lawn."
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 16:28

If it's something enclosed, such as a tunnel or passageway, you would usually be said to walk (or pass, or drive) through it from end to end. If it's something more or less open (but still distinctly separate from the surroundings), such as a bridge, you would usually be said to walk (or pass, or drive) across it (and the act is crossing it). Something like an ordinary ground-level road or sidewalk you would walk (etc.) along or alongside.

If you are not moving from one end of this thing (e.g., road) to another, but only briefly occupying the same space, you would usually be crossing the road. To cross a tunnel would usually mean that it's buried and you're above it, not within it at any time, although it would be possible to cross a tunnel from another, intersecting tunnel.


To move through something, one must be able to be inside it either literally or figuratively. Usually a container or the notion of a container is invoked.

Walk through the tunnel
Drive through a rain storm
Run through the forest
Walk through the streets of London

in each case a container is established: tunnel, rain storm, forest, the collection of London streets

Across usually implies a position of being over or on top of but may mean close by, and may, but not necessarily refer to movement.

Referring to movement

Walk across a bridge
Fly across the country
Run across the street

Referring to over

The bridge goes across the river
Hands Across America

Referring to close by

Sit across from somebody
The building across from the station

From your examples, one walks through a tunnel is correct

walk through the tunnel across to the other side

  • 1
    Excellent! However, after such a concise explanation, I'm wondering how does "going through the motions" and "going through the plan" fit into all this? There seems to be implied movement by the use of "going" along with an element of repetition or rehearsal, but I can't quite put my finger on the exact explanation. Oh and just a thought: in the cases where across and through are theoretically equivalent (across the field, through the field) I tend to find that the "through" variant implies greater difficulty; some kind of impediment or hardship.
    – user67369
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 4:45

Through is used to cross a three-dimensional place or enclosed object: like a tunnel, forest or jungle.

A forest is a three-dimensional place as it is covered with full of tall trees. In contrast, an open field is usually empty, does not cover with trees, which is act like a two-dimensional place.

  1. The man is walking across the field.
  2. The man is walking through the jungle.

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across a river and through a bridge.

  • 4
    We don't walk "through" a bridge - we walk across it, over it, or under it.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 18:24
  • Though a bridge? Though!!? What do you mean?
    – a.RR
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 14:37
  • 1
    "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go."
    – fixer1234
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 23:04

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