If someone "pulls to a stop" when driving, does it indicate that that someone stops the car abruptly/suddenly and forcefully?

  • No, I don't interpret it that way. It means "slows down and stops": it doesn 't say anything about how rapidly that was done. – Colin Fine Nov 24 '19 at 16:17
  • It just means they stop, often having previously slowed down to a low speed, e.g. when looking for somewhere to stop safely or conveniently. Also "pull up". – Michael Harvey Nov 24 '19 at 16:18

You can say either of the following:

  • I quickly (and forcefully) pulled to a stop.
  • I slowly (and gently) pulled to a stop.

Since the phrase can be modified by either adverb, the phrase itself doesn't necessarily imply one more than the other on its own.

Although some people might associate it more with one style of stopping, I think the term itself is objectively neutral. (No pun intended …)

On a side note, I've personally always visually associated pull with pulling the hand brake.

In other words:

I pulled [the brake] to [bring the car to] a stop.

Of course, the car is itself stopped by pushing the pedal brake. However, pulling the hand brake prevents it from moving again. As such, when I hear the phrase what I picture is somebody stopping the car and pulling the hand brake. I've never equated the phrase with how quickly the car stops.

  • 3
    I think the expressions 'pull up' or 'pull to a stop' probably pre-date foot controls for brakes, and maybe motor vehicles, and originated when brakes were operated by levers, pulled by the hand and arm. – Michael Harvey Nov 24 '19 at 16:46

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