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I am confused about where to use "down" instead of "down to" ? Can we use them interchangeably ? I copied some examples to see if there is any different in meaning .

1- He first went down the mines when he was 17.

2- Would you go down to the basement and fetch me a book please?

3- Water dripped down the wall.

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In all of these examples, "down" and "down to" could not be exchanged.

"go down the mine" means descend into the hole in the ground.
"go down to the mine" means go along the street to the mine buildings.

You can say "go down to the shop" but in standard UK English you don't say "go down the shop".

"go down to the basement" means "go down the stairs until you reach the basement. In standard British English you don't say "go down the basement", since the basement is level.

"water dripped down the wall" means water descended in drips on the wall.
"water dripped down to the wall means water dripped down until it stopped at the wall.

In these cases "down X" means you remain in, or on X as you go down. But "down to X" means you go "down" until you reach X. Sometimes "down" is figurative. In some dialects the "to" can be dropped.

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  • Though it might be worth noting that some of those examples of "down the X" you give as don't/can't say are perfectly normal in some dialects. Those that I'm familiar with are essentially a case of missing out the "to", though.
    – SamBC
    Feb 8, 2019 at 22:40
  • Am I not correct in thinking that go down the pub is colloquial UK English? (This is tangential to your actual answer, since it's a specific usage and it wouldn't be considered "standard" English anyway.) Feb 9, 2019 at 3:00
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The answer of James is clear enough but I remain having an advice that the most important thing that makes questioner confusing is the double parts of speech.In the first and third exemples, "down" is preposition but adverd in the second example.

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