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I am currently under the impression that you in some cases can use "speed" and "drive" interchangeably. Examples:

He drove out on the highway/He speed out on the highway.

She waved goodbye and drove off/She waved goodbye and speed off.

Is this correct?

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    Only you probably meant "sped", not "speed" in both cases (Past Tense). – Victor Bazarov Aug 21 '15 at 20:09
  • The answer is "no". The meaning of "drive" and "speed" is different, if you haven't found out yet. To speed essentially means to accelerate or to do other things quickly (or to cause other things to move quickly). To drive is just to control, to rein. – Victor Bazarov Aug 21 '15 at 20:14
  • "sped off" indicates an urgency that is not in "drove off". – user3169 Aug 21 '15 at 20:26
  • @VictorB - I wouldn't say the answer is "no"; I would say the answer is "not exactly." In the O.P.'s first example, "drove" means "drove fast" (the "fast" is implied by the context, in this case, "on the highway"). In the second example, sped adds a little bit of information that drove doesn't supply, but they are both valid ways to describe the situation. – J.R. Aug 21 '15 at 21:21
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    Both apply, yes. However, I took it that "Is this correct?" was not about the sentences in general but that they can be used interchangeably. – Victor Bazarov Aug 21 '15 at 21:50
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Speed can be used as a verb meaning "to move quickly". So, I can say:

"He drove down the highway."

or

"He sped down the highway."

And they both mean pretty much the same thing.

HOWEVER, does that mean the two words are synonymous? Not so fast!


First of all, drive (or drove) works well with automobiles, but speed (or sped) could work with other vehicles, such as airplanes:

The jet sped across the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.
The steamboat sped down the river.

(I would not use the verb drove in those sentences.)


The verb speed can also be used for people or animals:

The referee sped across the field to break up the fight.
The cheetah sped toward the water hole where the zebras were drinking.

Also, when talking about automobiles, drive can be used refer to a leisurely, unhurried speed.

Linda and Max drove out to the park on Sunday.

(I would not use sped in that sentence, unless they were driving fast.)


Lastly, when it comes to driving a car, the word speeding is used to mean you are exceeding the posted speed limit. So:

The red Porsche sped through the red light.

might imply that, not only did the car go through the red light, but it did so by exceeding the speed limit. So, when applying the verb speed to someone's driving, it might mean "drive quickly," or, in the eyes of the law, it might also mean "drive too quickly." The meaning can be a little blurry, and, without additional context, there might be some ambiguity.

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Speed can be used as a verb. In the context of driving an automobile, it means to illegally drive above the speed limit. Below is a common opening to a conversation that a native English speaker would have with a policeman after being stopped:

What appears to be the problem, officer? Was I speeding?

It can also be used to mean "move away quickly," especially outside of the context of automobiles, or used in past tense followed by "off."

He sped off before I could even say goodbye.

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