Can we say so or it doesn't make any sense?

  • The city can be overloaded by cars.

I want to say that there is a pressure on the city because of a great deal of cars.

Is it possible to use "overload" then?

And what's about the usage of "a great deal of" ?

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    Funnily enough, to me it sounds perfectly natural and normal. It's perfectly common to talk about the systems of a city (sewage, political, medical etc). For me "traffic in 2020 overload the city" is perfectly normal and understandable - it means what it obviously means. – Fattie Jan 12 at 22:15

It would be more idiomatic to say "the city is overrun with cars".

"Overloaded" means you loaded too much into/onto something. You don't really 'load' a city with cars.

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    I just can't agree, the two things are different. The city could be overrun by (say) a Monghol Horde! Also, cars .. traffic .. are "always in" a city, if the number of cars is becoming huge, you're not being "overrun". You could be "overrun" by, say, motorbikes on a weekend motorbike gala where thousands of bikers arrive. But a city can't be "overrun" by people, "overrun" by cars" or "overrun" by houses - those things "are" the city. In contrast it's perfectly normal to say "the city's health system is overrloaded" or ".. electrical grid is overloaded". – Fattie Jan 12 at 22:19
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    @Fattie I can't disagree more. A city can certainly be overrun with people, cars, etc. For example if a demonstration or other large event were taking place downtown, that usage is commonplace. – PC Luddite Jan 13 at 2:36
  • This is better than "overloaded", but it does sound a bit weird, since it seems like the people are taking over! – Hello Goodbye Jan 13 at 4:51
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    @Fattie you'll notice that my answer states "overrun with cars", not 'by', which would indicate intent. You're quite wrong in your assertions and you should perhaps use a tool like ngrams to put them to the test. – Astralbee Jan 13 at 9:14
  • To me "overrun" has a more than usual negative connotation, like you'd use it to describe there being too many rats or pigeons in the city, but not cars, or even people unless you were viewing those people as undesirable invaders or something. If it's just the normal occupants of the city, it would be quite insulting to refer to the city as "overrun" with them. – Darrel Hoffman Jan 13 at 17:46

Even though the meaning is clear, I agree with other answerers that this might not be the best term to use in reference to a city.

If you are intent on using that term, I would suggest being more specific with the object that is being overloaded. In this case, the city's road infrastructure or its transportation network would be overloaded.


You will want to consider your prepositions in this case.

  • If I say something is overloaded by I am making a reference to whoever or whatever did the loading. For example, The train's boxcar was overloaded by the railyard workers who had loaded it. This means the railyard workers had loaded too much onto the boxcar.

  • If I say something is overloaded with I am making a reference to the items that have been loaded. For example, The train's boxcar was overloaded with wheat. This means too much wheat has been added to the boxcar.

In your example you are talking about a city. The parameters for a city becoming overloaded are not clearly defined and as Billy Kerr says, it doesn't quite work in your example. That being said, your example would be better understood if you said, The city was overloaded with...

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    the use of "overloaded" to mean "too much weight, in for example a truck" is incredibly obscure and technical. the overwhelmingly normal use of "overloaded" today is about systems: the computer is overloaded, the IRS is overloaded, the electrical system is overloaded, hospitals are overloaded due to Covid. – Fattie Jan 12 at 22:16
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    @Fattie I assume you have proof of how overloaded is used these days? Or is this just a broad assumption we all should share? Shipping containers from China to rest of the world are never overloaded? Or people just don't talk about it when it happens? – EllieK Jan 12 at 22:19
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    I'm sorry, no, I don't have time to do a google search (I'm overloaded with work!) about something so obvious and commonplace - so no, sorry. – Fattie Jan 12 at 22:20
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    @Fattie the examples you're citing are certainly normal uses of the word, but in no way is it "incredibly obscure" to say that a truck/container/cart is overloaded. In fact, Meriam Webster lists your meaning as its third definition – PC Luddite Jan 13 at 2:25
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    If you said a bridge was overloaded with cars then people would surely be expecting the rest of the story to involve more excitement than a long commute (perhaps some kind of emergency rescue situation). – user3067860 Jan 13 at 14:53

It doesn't sound very natural to me, although it is understandable.

We often use "too many" to express something like this. It means "an excess of".


The city has too many cars.

There are too many people in the room.

There are too many customers in the shop.


Quite simply, yes

This is a perfectly normal, natural thing to say, at least where I am from, which is New York City. The City is often “overloaded by cars,” and that’s not at all an unusal observation to make, or way to phrase it.

It’s not the same as being overrun by cars—the cars aren’t every where per se (New York City has the lowest per-household rates of car ownership in the USA by a huge margin), or “taking over” (again, most people don’t use them) but they are in excess of the city’s capacity to handle cars (even a small fraction of NYC’s population is still a huge number of people), resulting in heavy traffic and impossible parking (my wife spent two hours looking for a spot just yesterday! my turn for that tomorrow).

Instead, the emphasis here is on capacity—the City only has so many parking spots, only so much room for traffic to move smoothly, and so on—and that is being overwhelmed. Stuff that is held against your capacity is the load on that capacity—in any kind of metric, not just weight—and in this case, we have overload. So yes, I think this is a rather ideal verb to use.

And by is a perfectly reasonable preposition to use—with would be equally fine—since the things taking up capacity are the cars. The preposition by could also refer to the people who did the loading—in this case, I guess, the drivers?—but context here would be quite clear that the cars didn’t do the loading, they are the things that have been loaded. By could work either way.

So yes, “the city can be overloaded by cars,” that’s perfectly fine.

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