Can I say:

The tunnel can be crossed in 5 minutes.

Normally when we cross a road we mean perpendicularly. But what if I'm crossing the road, or in this case a tunnel, lengthwise, from end to end? Can I still use the verb "cross"? Should I perhaps add a preposition, like "along" or "through", to clarify the matter?

I also would like to keep the passive voice.


Short answer: some people may use it idiomatically, but no, you probably shouldn't say "I crossed a tunnel", however not for the reason you suggest.

The compass direction in which you are travelling doesn't really have any bearing on whether or not you should use "cross" or "across". For example, a journey from the UK to the USA is "across the Atlantic", and is broadly an east-to-west journey. However, the journey from the UK to France across the English channel is broadly in a southerly direction, but is still referred to as a "crossing".

Both "cross" and "across" imply travelling from one side of something to the other. But what is on the "side" is all a matter of perspective. Obviously, if you are facing somebody, your left is their right; but what if someone is at 90° to you? Their left is either behind or in front of you. And most people make journeys by going forward! You can safely use "cross" or "across" for a journey in any direction.

It is true that compass directions have some bearing on how we describe journeys across land. For example you might speak of "travelling up" to a place which is north of your starting point, or "down" to a place further south.

But the reason you probably shouldn't say "I travelled across a tunnel" is that the word is synonymous with "over", and one does not travel "over a tunnel" as you do a bridge - you go through it or along it.

It might be more accurate to say you went across whatever it is the tunnel spans. For example:

The channel can be crossed in 5 minutes via the tunnel.

But if you want to keep the tunnel as the subject, a better word might be "traversed", which can mean to travel across or through.

The tunnel can be traversed in 5 minutes.

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  • 1
    And what if I want to keep the tunnel as the subject. "The tunnel can be ... in 5 minutes"? – Fra Nov 9 '18 at 10:04
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    @FrancescoDiGiuseppe I've added another example for you. – Astralbee Nov 9 '18 at 10:12
  • You could also say "The tunnel can be passed through in 5 minutes." – Veraen Nov 9 '18 at 11:08

You do not hear native speakers regularly saying "We crossed the tunnel" .

The normal verb phrase is go through or pass through and I suppose you could say cross through but to me it sounds a little "off".

To cross is to go from one side to the side opposite, but tunnels don't really have sides, they have openings.

Passive constructions expressing motion through the tunnel, with tunnel as subject, are avoided:

The tunnel can be passed through in five minutes.

This is a tad more likely:

The tunnel can be driven in five minutes.

The usual way is to say

It takes five minutes to go through the tunnel.

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