I think I hear people mostly use the phrase "going down the street" instead of "going up the street" or "going on the street"

It is common to hear that :

I was going down the street when I saw her

in songs or movies.

I don't think the word down has something do to with a inclination, declination or direction.I feel people use it even they walk on a plain road/street.What exactly does this sentence mean?

So what is the difference between :

I was going on the street when I saw her


I was going down the street when I saw her


I was going up the street when I saw her

  • There may be no difference at all between "going up the street" and "going down the street." Here's an interesting Ngram.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 13:42
  • See also "What does 'back East' mean?", which discusses "up North", "down South", "back East", and "out West" in the contiguous 48 states of the United States.
    – Jasper
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 19:29
  • I don't think all English speakers are consistent about this. Some people here in Los Angeles will say, "I'm going down to San Francisco," and it feels natural to them. But when I hear this, I immediately get confused because I visualize San Francisco as up on a map. I think people vary tremendously in how much they visualize a landscape in terms of fixed compass directions. Sometimes I'll ask people "do you mean the parking lot on the north side of the building," which seems natural to me, but they have no idea which side is north. Supposedly Chinese people visualize compass directions a lot.
    – user118305
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


The choice between down and up for street movement is interesting.

If the street is on a hill the usage is obvious.

If the street is on the level it is less so, but there are some rules of thumb that can be applied.

If the city has an acknowledged "uptown" and "downtown" sections, "up the street" usually goes uptown and "down the street" goes downtown.

Sometimes the choice is made based on compass direction- going North might be considered "going up the street" whereas heading South might be considered "going down the street".

Other times it's local convention- however it got established.

And a lot of times it just doesn't matter and either one is perfectly fine.

But you can get a ticket for public indecency if you are caught "going on the street."!

--get more than a ticket, you would become a sex offender Here's a link to a similar question on English Language and Usage: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/83597/up-my-street-and-down-the-lane

  • Thank you for the answer. can I use "on" for pedestrian walkways.
    – Mrt
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 23:00
  • 1
    It's not "on" by itself, it's "going on" that will get you in trouble. Yes, you can be on the sidewalk, or on the road, and kids can be playing in the street. It think that's a whole 'nother question.
    – Jim
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 23:57
  • 2
    in case you didn't get it: "going on the street" means urinating. Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 1:26
  • If I could throw in a bit more background, one "goes down" when one leaves- temporarily or permanently- a university such as Oxford or Cambridge, or as a special case London (I've not heard it used for other cities). There's also the "down line" and "up line" on (British) railways where in general "up" is heading towards the more prestigious terminus of the company that constructed the line... which will usually be London. So the best I can suggest is that "going down the street" has the connotation of "heading somewhere from where I am now, which is important due to my presence". Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 12:30

So what is the difference between :

I was going on the street when I saw her - "Going on the street" not really used in this sense... It could be construed to mean that you were urinating in the street when you saw her! ['going' colloquially used in this sense to refer to going to the toilet...]

I was going down the street when I saw her - "Going down" meaning travelling along or moving along the street, from one end to the other, the direction is not important. If direction is relevant, then you would add: "going down the street, from X to Y..."

I was going up the street when I saw her - could imply you were travelling along the street towards a more important destination, like "I'm going up to London" if travelling from the south. "I'm going down to London" if you are coming from the north of England. Probably only because of the geography in this case...


"I'm going up to University". "I'm coming down from University", implies that University is more important / prestigious than the place you are travelling from / to.

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