I have trouble explaining the crowdness of a road. How can I say if a road is not crowded and you can easily speed up with your car there?

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    Maybe your question needs to be more precise. If you mean non-crowded at this time of day (fx not rush hour) expressions like “clear” and “light traffic” is the best choice to capture the meaning. But if you mean a road that in general is non-crowded expressions like “desolate” or “remote” is better I think
    – rabbitco
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 17:54
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    @rabbitco My question is general. I don't even want it to be specifically for roads. I have the same question about other places like hospitals. How can I describe a hospital that is not crowded and all doctors are free to check you out.
    – Mohd Sala
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 19:32
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    your question is both titled and stated as specifically pertaining to “roads”. If you simply need a generic word for various use cases you could just use “uncrowded”. But often another word will better capture the intended meaning depending on the context in which it is used.
    – rabbitco
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 6:47
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    The body of the question specifically asked for how to describe a road that is not crowded. You shouldn't assume that in English you can apply the answers to describe, say, the lack of passengers on a bus. Furthermore, the choice of word may depend on the reason for it being not crowded — maybe the usual commuters are gone because it's a weekend, maybe everyone is confined to stay home because of covid. The point is, the question you asked is the question you posed, and you shouldn't change it or generalize it after posting. Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 6:47
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    Side note: I wouldn't use "crowded" for roads, since that usually refers to people (not cars). I'd rather use "busy".
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 15:01

9 Answers 9


In American English, I would use empty or clear, but to mean two slightly different things.

I would most often use empty to indicate that there is little traffic:

The roads are empty. Everybody must have decided to stay home today!

I would use clear to indicate that there was a problem on the road, such as an accident or traffic jam, and that problem was eliminated.

The roads are clear. The accident was moved to the side of the road about an hour ago.


Rush hour is over. The roads are clear.

Because of all the comments, I want to clarify my response with a reminder that I'm only referring to American English:

(1) I use the word empty to indicate "not crowded". It does not necessarily mean "devoid of people, cars, etc." It's a relative term. For example:

  • the roads are empty (very few cars compared to normal)
  • the hospital is empty (only a few patients)
  • the parking lot is empty (only a few cars)
  • the stadium was empty (not crowded)

(2) Yes, I might say "the parking lot is empty" even though it has a few cars in it. It's all about context. For example:

Not many people went to the concert. We were able to move five rows closer to the stage because the stadium was empty.

(3) You can also qualify empty for emphasis (but you don't have to). For example:

The parking lot is pretty empty. You shouldn't have any trouble finding a space.

The hospital is so empty! I bet there are only 30 patients!

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    Absolutely! I would most often say "the parking lot is empty." Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 15:39
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    You can also say "there's one empty parking space left" and refer to a single space even though the parking lot is full. Or, "There's an empty parking space right in front of the house." Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 15:49
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    The parking lot is empty but the hospital is not busy. The hospital could be described as empty if it were devoid of people in general or if there was some context to clarify that you meant not busy when you said empty.
    – EllieK
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 18:53
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    Just wanted to point out: If someone says "the roads are empty" I interpret that to mean virtually nobody is out driving. That seems stronger than the original question. The answer below of "open", used as the phrase "open road" or "road is wide open" doesn't mean a complete absence of traffic, but just that there is no traffic that would impede forward progress at any speed in any way. Thus IMHO that would be the preferred answer here. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:47
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    I wouldn't use 'Empty' to mean 'not crowded'. For example, would also use 'Empty' to describe a cup half-full of liquid: no-one would. Yet you suggest to describe a half-full carpark as 'Empty'. 'Not crowded' is very different from 'Empty'.
    – charmer
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 16:13

I would most often say traffic was light or there wasn't much traffic.

I might also say the roads were quiet

I might even say the roads were empty if it was particularly dramatic and unexpected.

  • How about the word "clear" which is mentioned in some other answers? You've mentioned the words "quiet" and "empty" but didn't say anything about "clear". Does it show that this word is not used in this kind of situation?
    – Mohd Sala
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 8:31
  • @MohdSala: English has many synonyms. It would be unreasonable to expect a single answer to list them all.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 17:03
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    @MohdSala As a native speaker, if someone told me the roads were "clear", I would assume that they had previously been blocked to some extent by an accident or some debris, or (in the winter) had been covered in snow/ice. So I would say the roads were "empty" or "fairly/nearly empty" depending on whether there were zero cars or just a small number of cars.
    – Herohtar
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 19:19
  • @MohdSala I agree with Herohtar, "clear" implies free of obstructions or weather conditions, not free of traffic. Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 21:09
  • ''The road is clear'' sounds a bit strange to a native speaker. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 15:42

You can say the road is clear:


not covered or blocked by anything:

  • The journey was quite quick because the road was clear (= there was not much traffic on it).

(Cambridge Dictionary)

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    This is not common in American english to refer to light traffic and would usually have the implication of either not having snow/ice or having been blocked by an obstruction that is now cleared up (so to speak). Is this use of clear more common in other locales? Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 21:10
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    @coppereyecat: As a native speaker of American English, I think the term "clear" would imply that the road is free of impediments to traffic flow. If traffic on a 4-lane freeway is moving at 50ph, I would describe the road as clear whether traffic is dense or sparse, but if traffic on that same road were moving at only 20mph because 80% of motorists wanted to exit onto a two-lane freeway I would not describe the traffic as clear because the back-up from the two-lane freeway was impeding traffic flow on the four-lane road.
    – supercat
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 15:45
  • @coppereyecat: I think the expression is used both in BrE and AmE. Lexico (AmE) at point 3 of clear: “free of any obstructions or unwanted objects. ‘with a clear road ahead he shifted into high gear’
    – user 66974
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 16:10
  • @supercat it may be regional then, as also a native speaker of American English ;) Weirdly, it seems to me more likely to be used on a larger road like you describe - maybe because a busy road could often be blocked by traffic jams, etc. I can't imagine using clear to describe an empty country highway. But using it for a busy highway in town seems a lot more plausible to me today than it did yesterday. Language is weird. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 17:54
  • @coppereyecat: The use of the expression for wider roads isn't "weird", since only larger roads could have a large number of vehicles on it without those vehicles being "obstacles".
    – supercat
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 18:30

A road or some terrain can be open:

7a. : presenting no obstacle to passage or view : : not enclosed, obstructed, or filled with objects

// The open road

In addition to some words others have mentioned, such as empty and sparse: If a place has no people, we could call it deserted. Too few people, and we might call it lonely.

  • This is the most used in my experience in the United States Midwest. "The roads were wide open." Other answers such as "clear" we would probably use to refer to the condition of the roads (i.e. are they covered in snow? or have the been plowed [cleared of snow]?) "Empty", I would say is a close second.
    – Flats
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:23

Not a native here, but I think you could simply state that the road is empty (or almost empty):

not containing any things or people

  • an empty house/street

Alternatively, you could say that the traffic on the road is light.

  • The emphasis is weird. It makes it look as if the opposite of "crowded" was "people".
    – mkrieger1
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 15:44

Edit: Reordered for most commonly used phrases being near the top

Clear roads (very common)

  • The roads were clear(ed) of ice.
  • The roads were clear(ed) of cars.
  • The roads were clear. (Could also work for somehow see-through roads)

Light traffic (very common)

  • The traffic was light. (Do not confuse with the Traffic Light, which is a Traffic Signal!!!)
  • There was light traffic this morning.

Empty roads (very common)

  • The roads are empty. (The roads don't "contain" vehicles)

Deserted (common)

  • This road is deserted. These roads are deserted.
  • Remember the meaning of deserted by the population of most deserts (areas with almost no rain/snow/precipitation): very small.
  • Deserted implies there are 0 or maybe 1 vehicle(s).

Desolate (common)

  • This road is desolate. (The road gives off empty, lonely, and sad feelings to you)

Barren (not as common)

  • This road is barren. (similar to desert)
  • This road is bare. (the road is bland, featureless, devoid of noteworthy/important features/landmarks)

Dense (uncommon)

  • The traffic isn't very dense.
  • The roads aren't very dense with traffic.
  • Dense: packed closely together. Dense refers to traffic in the above sentence
  • Not using with traffic means something completely different: The roads are essentially fluffy.

Scarce (uncommon)

  • The roads are scarce with vehicles.
  • The roads are scarcely populated.
  • Use with vehicles to avoid confusion, as "The roads are scarce" implies there are not many roads close to where you are.

Sparse (uncommon)

  • The roads are sparse with vehicles.
  • The roads are sparsely populated.
  • Use with vehicles to avoid confusion, as "The roads are sparse" implies there are not many roads close to where you are.
  • Notice how Sparse and Scarce used identically.
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    I'm not sure I've ever heard the phrase "sparse with..." before. Perhaps "Traffic was sparse" or in other contexts "cover sparsely with..."
    – Jontia
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 10:33
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    To be clear, "deserted" doesn't mean "like a desert", although that might be a useful mnemonic. It actually means "without people" or "abandoned".
    – wjandrea
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 1:16
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    Similar to what @Jontia said for "sparse with", it seems more natural to say "Traffic isn't very dense". If you said "The roads aren't very dense", I'd think you meant the roads themselves, not traffic.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 1:31
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    It seems like you looked up a thesaurus and then tried to justify the results. Scarce and sparse are inappropriate to describe traffic on roads. Bare means something else altogether — it is usually used to describe a road that is free of ice or snow. Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 6:38
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    I just put what I have personally used and heard as a native English speaker, though I did look up most of the words just to double check they weren't pure slang
    – Stev
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 7:28

I would say that the road was desolate.


devoid of inhabitants and visitors : DESERTED

(From Merriam-Webster dictionary)

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    In connection to roads, my brain jumps to meaning 3a), "showing the effects of abandonment and neglect" for "desolate"
    – towe
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 5:50
  • Desolate is far too literary to use in such a context. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 15:43

You could say that the road is "deserted", or "desolate".

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    Welcome to English Language Learners! While this may be correct, we like our answers to be backed up by references. You can edit your answer to include one (e.g. an online dictionary). See the Help Center article How to Answer.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 8:00

You can use the word "scarce" if we are talking about the population density in a region not being very high for a particular commodity or species.

So in your case, the situation is the scarcity of traffic on the streets. A sentence to back this up might be,

"The traffic is scarce on Street 101 due to the city being in a lockdown."

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    To be clear, you would use it like "traffic is scarce". Saying "the road is scarce" doesn't really mean anything, and "roads are scarce" means there aren't many roads.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 1:21
  • Why is there a downvote to my answer. I believe that "scarce traffic" encapsulates the OPs statement correctly.
    – mnuizhre
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 19:23
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    I didn't downvote you, but scarce has a different meaning: insufficient for demand. For example: "At the food hall, tables were scarce", or "at the supermarket, toilet paper was scarce". In other words, people want (this thing) but there are not many of them. People don't usually "want" more traffic. Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 21:46
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    My apologies for not leaving a comment. I downvoted because the OP is asking about the density of traffic on a road, not the population density in a region. Your answer doesn't show how the word "scarce" applies to the OP's question
    – gotube
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 22:50
  • Ok just to be clear, I wanted to provide a more general explanation of the word while writing the answer. I have updated the answer to suit to OPs question a little more.
    – mnuizhre
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 19:50

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