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You're gonna take 25 South to Las Cruces. You can pick up 10 West from there.

We take the A14 to Birmingham and then pick up the M5.

I guess the take means to choose a road and start to drive on it. What exactly does the pick up mean in this context?

I've found one definition:

pick up: find and take a particular road or route. "they veered left and picked up the road which ran alongside the river"

So what's the difference between take and pick up here?

  • I see no difference, except that "pick up" suggests a transition. You could use "pick up" even for the start of the journey, because there's a transition there, too. The writer is using some variety. In place of "pick up", they could have written "and then take". – Jack O'Flaherty Aug 13 '20 at 22:12
  • You pick up something that you find along the way. – Michael Harvey Aug 14 '20 at 6:54
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  • "Take" is a common, neutral navigational term for going on a road.

  • "Pick up" emphasizes the transition to another road, so one sort of envisions the junction or on-ramp, and expects to be told where that junction is. For example

Q: "Which road are you going to take?"
A:"We're going to pick up I-80"

sounds . . . not wrong, but you have a bit of a feeling that the sentence should end in "at Sacramento" or something. The "we're going to take [road] and pick up [other road] at [location]" (like in your examples) is perhaps its most common use-form; or the question form "where do I pick up [road name]?" if you are asking directions.

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