push somebody/something over

​to make somebody/something fall to the ground by pushing them

Sam pushed me over in the playground.

pull somebody/something over

​(of the police) to make a driver or vehicle move to the side of the road

can we say "to push the chair over" when you made a chair fall to the ground by pulling it towards you, not pushing it away from you?

Or can we invent the structure "to pull the chair over". But, it means something else because most people know what "pull over" means?

  • 1
    Interesting thought. I think of physical action with these two words. Using muscles to perform these actions involves opposite movement. So I guess it would then depend on how one makes the "chair" fall/move.
    – Katherine
    Mar 28, 2020 at 12:23
  • 1
    When the police pull someone over, they order them to stop their vehicle. This doesn't mean that pull over cannot be used in the literal sense as well, if you are talking about an object falling down. Mar 28, 2020 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


Using "push over" when the action is actually pulling would not be correct.

You can, however, say "pull over" to mean that you pulled something/someone and it fell over as a result. The definition you quoted is one meaning of "to pull over", but it is not the only meaning. For example, this makes perfect sense:

I pulled the chair over and it landed on the ground.

In general, if you use "pull over" with a vehicle of some sort, people will assume you mean the sense of stopping it by the side of a road. If you use "pull over" with something that is not a vehicle or something you ride/drive/etc, then people will generally assume you mean you pulled it and it fell over, but it will sometimes also depend on context.

You can, of course, add extra text if you want to be sure people will know which one you mean:

We pulled the car over onto its side.

(This clearly means you pulled it and it ended up lying on its side, not that you made it go to the side of the road and stop.)

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