Suppose that somebody asks me how to reach a place when I am at my cousin's. I don't live there, but I know the place enough to give indications. Suppose that I tell that person to follow the street he is on for half a mile, and then take another road in direction of a specific town.

I always used street to mean a public road in a city/town, but what should I use when I am not sure if the road is still in the town territory?

I imagine that if I say street and the person notices he is already outside the town, he would think he went too ahead, and missed the one I was talking of. If I say road when the road is still in the town territory, he could think he is supposed to go further ahead (and probably I was not precise when I said half of a mile).

Is there any way to avoid this kind of ambiguity, or isn't there any ambiguity at all?

  • kiam, I think "I always used" is not idiomatic English. As far as I know, with "always", and "never", you should say "I have always used". Please, if you verify this is a valid 'rule', give me a feedback, thank you! – user114 Jul 7 '13 at 10:42
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    @Carlo_R.: Not really – have a look. – J.R. Jul 7 '13 at 11:01

Although most passages are named streets in town, and roads in between towns, it doesn't confuse people to call them otherwise. If I say to someone, "Take that road that goes from downtown Boston to the harbor," they won't think, "What does he mean? It must be a street!" Or if I say, "the street between Boston and New York," it will sound a little funny, but they will still know what I mean.

And certainly, there are streets within towns that are named Something-or-Other Road.

So using the word "road" or "street" is not really enough to tell someone whether they are in a town or outside a town, and whichever word you use is not enough to make them wonder whether you mean they are in a town or not. If you are wondering whether you are talking about being in a town or not, just say so to the person you are talking to.

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    John, so, if "the street between Boston and NY" sounds funny, but "take the road that goes from ..." doesn't sound so, it is because "road" is a hypernym of "street", perhaps? – user114 Jul 7 '13 at 10:32
  • I would agree. Moreover, in the context of giving directions, I'd say that street and road are pretty much interchangeable, at least in much of the U.S. – J.R. Jul 7 '13 at 11:02
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    @Carlo_R. I would say you're right; "road" seems superordinate to "street," although I agree with J.R. that they are somewhat interchangeable. – John M. Landsberg Jul 7 '13 at 11:58

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