In The Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out", the verse goes like this:

Driving in your car, I never never want to go home[...]

Now this got me thinking: Is he riding in the passenger's seat? If so, why did he say 'driving'? It seems unlikely he was actually behind the wheel, since he stated earlier in the lyrics that he wanted to be taken out for a ride. I've looked up online and to be just inside the car is to be 'riding', not driving.

Is it customary for people to be 'driving' in a car, when they're actually not in control of the vehicle?

  • Two people can be driving in a car, even though only one is at the wheel. – Michael Harvey Jun 12 at 18:10
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    Two people can "go for a drive", or "go for a cruise." They are driving, or cruising. – Weather Vane Jun 12 at 18:25
  • Yes, you can be driving in an car and not be the driver. We we drive down the street in your car, everyone stares because it's so old. – Lambie Jun 12 at 19:14
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    Just to be even more convoluted, nobody drives a bike or motorcycle; you only ever ride them, even if you're in control of the machine. (This is because we refer to them as if they were horses, while we refer to cars and trucks as if they were wagons.) – Darth Pseudonym Jun 12 at 19:27

Generally a car has only one driver at a time. So if I say, "Bob drove to Denver," I mean Bob piloted the car.

When multiple people travel to a destination by car, they all drive to the destination even if only one of them is the driver. Technically it would be more correct for passengers to say 'we were driven' but in U.S. that passive construct is very uncommon unless you have a chauffeur driving you around. 'We drove' means we all traveled by car.

"Bob drove to Denver to meet us and then we all drove to NYC"

"In one car?"


"Who did the driving between Denver and NYC?"

"Ann drove all the way."

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I've looked up online and to be just inside the car is to be 'riding', not driving.

This is correct.

Driving in your car, I never never want to go home[...]

This person is controlling the car.

Drive can also be used to talk about the method of transportation, though.

We're going to drive to the park.

So a plural group of people can be used as the subject of drive if the sentence could be used to answer the question How is X getting there?

We're driving to the park now. We chose not to walk.

Multiple people are not physically controlling the car though.

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  • Not sure why this was downvoted. For me this is the correct answer. From the comments on the question, I wonder if there may be an Am.E vs. Br.E difference. In Am.E I would say driving does at least strongly suggest, if not outright denote, that the subject is controlling the vehicle. – TypeIA Jun 12 at 18:52
  • There is no difference here for AmE and BrE. [As we were] Driving down the highway, we saw a fox. – Lambie Jun 12 at 19:12

The verb 'drive' can be used about all of the people in a motor vehicle:

Note the word 'especially' in the Cambridge Dictionaries definition. This means that the meaning does not only apply to 'the person controlling the vehicle's movement'

drive verb (USE VEHICLE)

to move or travel on land in a motor vehicle, especially as the person controlling the vehicle's movement

Drive (Cambridge Dictionaries)

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