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Would you tell me if it is natural to use the phrase run something by someone in the sense of passing information on someone? For example:

You can give the list of everything you want to buy and I'll run it by Kate so that she can pick it up on her way home.

I'm aware that run something by someone is usually used in the sense of telling something to someone to get their opinion, but it seems I've heard it used in the sense of just passing on information. If the way I used it in the sentence doesn't sound natural, what would you use instead?

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    "You can give the list" should surely be "You can give me the list" or "You can make a list", or something similar.
    – James K
    Jan 3 at 22:11

3 Answers 3

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Nah, I think your original idea is correct - to "run something by" someone is to get their opinion, reaction or permission. I don't know where you've heard it as a bare transfer of information, but that seems wrong. There's always the implication that you want a response from the person who you're running something by.

There are many options to express the transfer of information, many of which I'm sure you're aware of: tell someone, let someone know, inform someone (a more formal option), or, as you suggested, "pass on" information to someone (where there is an initial source of the information that is not you).

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  • Thank you for your answer! Could you tell me if it would be natural to use "run something by someone" in the sense of giving someone information to see if they agree to do something? For example: "Just give me your rate and I'll run it by my driver to see if he's willing to take the job." Jan 3 at 22:18
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    @DmytroO'Hope Yes, that would work just fine. Jan 4 at 8:13
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    To complete the set of 'to inform' there's apprise [not to be confused with appraise, which happens far too often]. Jan 4 at 13:02
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    Yes, I agree with Angew - you can "run something by" someone to see if they agree to it - that example sounds good to me and fits in the general category of trying to get a reaction from that person.
    – cruthers
    Jan 4 at 14:46
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    Maybe to slightly extend @Flydog57's comment: Sometimes you're not looking for approval, but rather the absence of disapproval. In such an absence, it seems to an outside observer like nothing happened except an exchange of information; but in reality there was an unspoken "silence is approval" confirmation happening. As a software developer, this is sort of what happens in daily standups. We all state what we are doing, and the team lead only responds to things that don't already look like they're going the right way. When things are going right, the TL barely if ever needs to interject.
    – Flater
    Jan 5 at 10:03
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I would not consider this natural no. As you've noted the phrase "run it by" is used when wanting to gain someone's opinion or approval of an action.

Run it by you

run (something) by (one)

  1. To explain or describe something to one; to inform one about something.
  2. To obtain one's permission for something.

In contrast to hand information off to someone else I would "run it over" to them.

Run it over to you

run over to (someone or something)

  1. To travel across to where someone or something is very quickly, as by running.
  2. To deliver or convey someone or something to someone, something, or some place.
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  • Thank you for your answer! Could you tell me if it would be natural to use "run something by someone" in the sense of giving someone information to see if they agree to do something? For example: "Just give me your rate and I'll run it by my driver to see if he's willing to take the job." Jan 3 at 22:19
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    @DmytroO'Hope yes, that would fall under the first example "To explain or describe something to one".
    – Jontia
    Jan 4 at 8:34
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    @DmytroO'Hope In this case, "running it by the driver" isn't just letting him know; you're seeing if the driver will agree or not, so you are expecting a response to the info Jan 4 at 8:43
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Generally, your instinct is correct that "run something by" typically implies a level of interaction between the speaker and the listener beyond a simple transfer of information, but it doesn't absolutely require much. Often this interaction is the listener giving their opinion or approval. However, it can also mean that the speaker is more carefully explaining whatever is being discussed, especially if I ask you to "run that by me again"--I could be asking you to explain more carefully, not necessarily indicating that you need my approval.

As far as your example, however, I think it could work depending on who Kate is. If she has at least nominal authority over the purchasing, then there is a suggestion there that she will at least give a cursory approval to the list, although it would be assumed that the approval is almost automatic. In this case there is an implied "assuming she approves".

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