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What's the difference between "pull in", "pull up", and "pull over" when talking about driving a vehicle?

I know they all mean "to stop" a vehicle, but is there a slight difference between them?

I compared three dictionaries to try to find an answer:

PULL IN

Collins

When a vehicle or driver pulls in somewhere, the vehicle stops there.

TheFreedictionary

To drive up to and park at some location.

Idioceonline

If a driver pulls in, they move to the side of the road and stop.

PULL UP

Collins

When a vehicle or driver pulls up, the vehicle slows down and stops.

Thefreedictionary

To maneuver something (typically a vehicle) alongside or in front of something or someone and bring it to a halt

Idioceonline

To stop the vehicle that you are driving.

PULL OVER

Collins

When a vehicle or driver pulls over, the vehicle moves closer to the side of the road and stops there.

Thefreedictionary

To drive one's vehicle to the curb or side of the road and bring it to a stop.

Idioceonline

To drive to the side of the road and stop your car, or to make someone else do this.

If I understand correctly, all these dictionaries agree on "pull over", which involves moving towards the side of the road before stopping. But as for "pull in" and "pull up" they don't seem to provide exactly the same definition. Are they interchangeable? Does their usage depends on the country or vehicle being used?

1 Answer 1

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In motoring, the side of the road nearest to the edge (that might include the pavement or sidewalk, or the 'hard shoulder' on a motorway) is referred to as the "inside" of the road. On roads with multiple lanes, the lane nearest to the same edge is called the "inside lane". So, "pull in" is the action of taking your car across to that side of the road, but it also implies coming to a stop when you do so. "Pull over" essentially means the same - moving your car "over" to the side of the road so that you can safely stop.

"Pull up" refers more to just the action of coming to a safe stop.

Although the two are used interchangeably as commands to stop on the inside of the road, if other details are included it may determine that one or the other should be used. For example:

  • Pull up in front of the bank.
  • Pull over when it is safe to do so.
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    I assume pull up must be a survival from the days of horse-drawn vehicles. Jan 31, 2022 at 10:54
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    'Pull over' can be a transitive verb - I pulled [the car] over after a red light appeared on the dashboard, or I was driving along when the police pulled me over. Jan 31, 2022 at 11:12
  • You can also pull in by leaving the road, for example by driving into a service station or a driveway.
    – Peter
    Jun 18, 2022 at 7:59

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