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Angry citizens took to the streets to protest the war.
Angry citizens went to the streets to protest the war.

Can I replace took with went in sentence 1? Would it make any difference? From what I understood, take to the streets is often associated with a protest, whereas go to the streets is just simply go there, but I feel there’s more to it than that.

2 Answers 2

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Yes, "take to X" means "go to X", but it doesn't only mean "go to X", it means something like "go to X with the specific intention of occupying X."

For example, I might say

I went to the greenmarket to get turnips

but never

I took to the greenmarket to get turnips

On the other hand,

I took to the hills

would mean I went to the hills, but it implies that my specific purpose was to be in the hills for some length of time, not merely to be there for some other reason.

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  • Can I say I took to the greenmarket to sell turnips though?
    – Ray
    Jan 3 at 20:51
  • That's not an idiomatic usage of it. It sounds like you're inhabiting the greenmarket.
    – stangdon
    Jan 3 at 22:21
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No, the meanings are different and using "go" breaks the idiomatic meaning of "take to the streets".

The sense of "take to the streets" is to make protests, demonstrations and riots in an attempt to change something. Changing it to "go" loses that meaning.

Compare "take to the airwaves" or "take to the presses" (meaning use radio or newspapers to protest something)

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