If you swim across a lake or a river does it mean you reach the other side, or is it possible to swim across without reaching the other side, as in: "I was swimming across the lake, when I got a cramp and had to stop." (I didn't reach the other side.)

Can I use "across" or do I have to use "in"?


2 Answers 2


I think the problem lies in the verb tense. If you "swam" (past tense) across the lake, you reached the other side. "Swimming" implies an action still in progress. When you put "across" in there, I believe readers would naturally assume that you did reach the other side. On the other hand, when I read your sentence as originally written, I assume that we are in the middle of a narration and we do not yet know how it will turn out. You obviously intend to reach the other side, but at this point we do not know for certain. "While attempting to swim across the lake...." might be a better way to phrase it if you didn't make it to the other side.

  • 1
    "I was swimming across the lake when I had to stop" to me is like "he was walking across the street when he was hit by a car" . The process is stopped .
    – anouk
    Dec 10, 2019 at 20:59
  • Yes, I agree. But being hit by a car is a rather drastic thing, and the average reader would assume he never made it across the street. However, a person could dog-paddle until the cramp passed, then continue swimming to the other side. The process is stopped at that point but could resume.
    – Jill
    Dec 10, 2019 at 21:18

to swim across a lake or river.

across the lake or river is merely the goal.

Yes, you reach the other side, generally, unless otherwise specified.

Obviously,if you get a cramp and have to stop, you don't reach the other side.

On the other hand, you might just float there. Or stand up if it is not deep.

Presumably, you did not drown since you are telling us that you had to stop due to a cramp.

to [walk, swim, crawl, bike, hike, etc.] across body of water (swim) or land (the others), unless specified, means you reached the place.

Of course, you can also swim in a like or swim in the ocean or hike in the woods without involving any crossing to another place. You can also crawl across the floor (sprained ankle?) or crawl on the floor (not on the roof) or crawl in the garden as opposed to crawling in the road, but why would you do those last two?

You could be doing any of those and not make it to another place, other than to meet your Maker.

  • 1
    You probably think I'm stupid but I don't understand your answer. You are confusing me. If I say: " I swam across the lake" it means I reached the other side, but if I say: " I was swimming across the lake when I had to stop", I didn't reach the other side. Am I correct? A simple answer will suffice.
    – anouk
    Dec 10, 2019 at 18:18
  • @anouk You know me better than that. Of course, all this would be true in any language (at least the four ones I speak)....:). I swam across the lake but stopped for a while to float on my back. But of course, if you were swimming across the lake and had to stop, you didn't reach the other side.
    – Lambie
    Dec 10, 2019 at 18:22

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