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"Marbles are rolled along the ground." This is a sentence from cambridge dictionary.marbles

The use of "along" drew my attention.

I know that "along" is used when we refer to a physical area in the form of a thin line such as a road, a river, a fence, etc.

But, a ground is not such a physical area. It is wide open and it extends to all four directions. So, I would not think of using "along" with such spaces.

I would use "on" or "over" or "down" the ground, but I don't know it those would be grammatically correct.

So, I wonder why can't I say "....rolled down the ground" or "....rolled on the ground" as in the case of "....walked down the street" or "....stepped on the ground".

2 Answers 2

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If is normal to play marbles on a level piece of ground, so down is not appropriate, however it would be fine to say that marbles are rolled on the ground.

Regarding along, most definitions of the preposition form do refer to something linear, like a road or a river. It is, however, also possible to use it in a situation two or three dimensions, and it means to carry on in the same direction. This meaning is often referred to in relation to the adverbal form of the word, for example Collins.

According to google NGRAMs, "rolling along the ground" does occur, though not as frequently as "rolling on the ground". Note that the difference widens from 2000 onwards: this could be due to an increase in usage of apps like Grammarly.

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  • Thanks, but regarding the issue with "down", native speakers says "down" does not always mean in a downward direction or somewhere below. You can simply "walk down the road or walk down the aisle" and this road/aisle can very well be a level piece of ground. So, why does "down" work with a road or an aisle, but not with "roll down the ground"?
    – Yunus
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 11:36
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    "Roll on the ground" can mean round in circles or back and forth (as one might do if one was in agony). "Along" gives the sense of a straight line, and also, perhaps of the person walking along with it, or following it. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 11:42
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    If down doesn't mean literally 'in a downward direction', it usually means 'along a linear route' such as a street, a corridor or a river. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 16:53
  • @KateBunting Agreed, down actually needs to refer to something linear for that alternate meaning to work. In my opinion, it wouldn't work for a two dimensional situation, like the ground.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 21:51
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"Along" is not only used for straight lines, but for anything that follows the shape of something else. Marbles follow the shape of the ground as they move, so we can say "along the ground".

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