how and what words do you use to express more clear meanings, thoughts or answers when you talk about:

  1. to dream = to sleep. Last night I had a bad dream about the death of my friend. I dreamed (dreamt) that he was lying dead on the road then I woke up at four... terrified.
  2. I have a dream to travel the whole world. In future when I earn more money I would to realize my dream.

The question is how do you distinguish this one word "a dream or to dream" if it has absolutely different meanings? The one is about sleeping process and the other is about your hope or purpose in your life to make or do something great, to be someone better as a person or to become someone great or famous in future. Give, please, detailed response. Maybe you, on-earth, use different words depending on what you want to speak about.

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    on-earth? What does that mean? Native speakers?
    – TimR
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 21:46
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    Context normally makes clear what kind of dream is being spoken about. We don't wake up from goals we hope to achieve.
    – TimR
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 21:48
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    Your question has an erroneous assertion: dreaming can be part of sleeping, but to dream to sleep. Also, there are several words in English that have multiple meanings. Look up words like pin, mean, word, arm, know, right and rust – they all can mean different things. As @Tᴚoɯɐuo says, the right meaning is discerned from context.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 22:00
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    I am unfamiliar with on earth meaning nevertheless.
    – TimR
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 0:55
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    Compare to the noun thirst. I can be "dying of thirst," meaning that I am literally dehydrated and need some water. I can also have "a thirst for knowledge," meaning that I really enjoy learning new things. It is quite common for English words designating some essential biological function (dream, thirst, hunger, lust, ache) to also have a metaphorical meaning. It is the context of their usage that clarifies to the listener which meaning is intended. Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:34

1 Answer 1


We use dream as a verb and a noun to refer both to hopes or grand plans and to the experience during sleep.

In normal conversational English, there is no more specific word to refer to the sleep experience, but there are many words that refer to hopes: aspirations, longings, objectives, passions, etc.

Context as well as syntactic cues normally make it abundantly clear which of the two the speaker is referring to, although there is some possibility for confusion.

Let's try one out.

I have a dream to travel the world.

I had a dream to travel the world.

No native speaker is going to think you are referring to the sleep experience. Notice that in the aspiration,there is an infinitival complement, to travel the world. An infinitival complement to dream is not normally used in contemporary English when dream refers to the sleep experience.

To refer to a recurrent sleep experience, a native speaker would say something like:

I keep having this dream where I am traveling the world.

If it were a single dream:

I had a dream where I was traveling the world.

I had a dream in which I was traveling the world.

In the sleep experience, when the dream is recurrent, the tense would be continuous (I keep having) which we would not use with an aspiration, and there is an adjunct clause that starts with where or in which, neither of which would we be likely to use in combination with a continuous tense to refer to an aspiration.

Now, the following could be ambiguous:

I have this dream where I travel the world.

It refers either to a recurrent sleep experience, or to a persistent wish or recurring reverie that seems to the speaker to have only a very remote chance of ever becoming a reality.

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