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When I go to a crowded place like a supermarket, it is possible to almost hit someone sometimes while seeing goods and moving forwards.

How to describe this situation idiomatically? Not sure if come across is the correct phrasal verb.

It is easy to come across someone in a crowded market.

3 Answers 3

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The sentence

It is easy to come across someone in a crowded market

is semantically incorrect if you want it to say that

It's easy to hit someone with a shopping cart in a crowded market.

Sometimes you have to be specific when you make such statements. Ambiguous statements like these, for example:

It's easy to bump into someone in a crowded market
It's easy to run into someone in a crowded market

could mean either to hit someone with a shopping cart or to crash into someone while walking or else to unexpectedly meet someone you know (of), a friend or a TV celebrity, for example.

Once when flying EVA Air from Taiwan to LA, I ran into CNN reporter Mike Chinoy (we were flying business class; I was unexpectedly bumped up from economy class; he or CNN had paid for his business class). I just happened to be sitting across the aisle from him, but he looked like an old EFL colleague of mine from Tokyo, so I didn't recognize him. I thought he was my old colleague. He noticed my stare and introduced himself. I was embarrassed. I didn't collide with Mr Chinoy, but I did bump/run into him. And even though to come across someone means to meet someone by chance, I wouldn't say it to describe bumping into Mr Chinoy.

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You could say it is easy to bump into someone in a crowded market.

Edit:

To distinguish this from the other meaning of bump into which is to encounter someone, the sentence can be it is easy to physically bump into someone in a crowded market.

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  • The problem with this is that "to bump into" has at least two distinct meanings: one is to hit (as with a grocery cart) & the other is to unexpectedly meet (as when you see purely by chance someone you know in the middle of Tokyo, NYC, or LA).
    – user264
    May 9, 2013 at 15:37
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    Bill, that's a good point. It still has the meaning of physically bumping into someone so, it's correct usage. That considered, it could be clarified by saying it is easy to physically bump into someone in a crowded market.
    – Tristan
    May 9, 2013 at 16:00
  • Yes, you're right. The problem isn't that it doesn't mean what the OP wants to say, just that it's ambiguous & needs to be disambiguated in this case.
    – user264
    May 9, 2013 at 16:02
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To "come across someone" is an idiom, meaning that you have unexpectedly encountered a person who you know or are looking for. Similarly, "run into" and "bump into" are often used idiomatically to mean only that you encountered a person, not that there was actual physical contact. So there is a risk of misinterpretation if you say "it is easy to run / bump into someone in a crowded market."

You could use a word or phrase that is more specifically geared toward physical contact, such as "jostle" or "elbow" (as a verb) or "bump" (without "into").

Alternatively, since the point of your original sentence is that you almost make contact but don't, you might make your statement a bit differently:

You have to be careful not to jostle / elbow / bump people in a crowded market.

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