I'm having a problem with understanding the word 'boat'. According to Longman Dictionary, it's "a vehicle that travels across water" which makes boat a word that can collocate with a lot of verbs.


I wonder if a student says this sentence "I piloted a boat", should the teacher ask, "what kind of boat are you talking about?" to make sure that the student is using the right collocation?

Or this one, what picture comes to your mind when someone says, "a fishing boat?"? Do you think of a boat that you row or a big one with all heavy equipment and things?! Do native speakers ask 'what kind of boat are you talking about?' ? Or even this one, travel by boat?! What kind of boat?


And can you please tell me with which kinds of boat do you use:

Take, travel, go, sail, navigate, take a ride on, ride, paddle, row?!

Is there any other verbs native speakers use for boat?

In my native language we don't have such a general term that we can use so commonly with a variety of verbs, so it's so clear what kind. It's all confusing in English. 😞

  • 1
    As for the second part of A), there is a common saying. "Ships can hold boats but boats can't hold ships." B) reads like a list question and is too broad.
    – user3169
    Feb 20, 2016 at 17:36
  • 2
    English has dozens of words in this general area - barge, boat, bowser, carrier, cruiser, canoe,... all the way through to ...vessel, whaler, yacht. Not to mention which the only vessels the British Royal Navy calls "boats" are in fact submarines. In general, boat can apply to anything except the largest, and ship to anything except the smallest. As @user3169 says, the "questions" asked here are either Opinion-based or Too Broad, but note that you normally sail from, say, Dover to Calais even though no cross-Channel ferries today are wind-powered. Feb 20, 2016 at 17:43
  • Most importantly: party boat :)
    – Peter
    Feb 21, 2016 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


First - as a native, it would sound weird to me if someone said they "piloted" a boat, but it would certainly be appropriate for someone else to ask, "what kind of boat?"

As you said, there are many verbs that can be associated with boats.

I'll address the ones you listed yourself -

Take - I've often said and heard "Let's take the boat out!" or "We took the boat out this morning."

Travel - This would be more along the lines of specifying how you traveled. "How did you get to London?" "We traveled by boat."

Go - This could be the same as the above verb. "We went by boat/We're going by boat to London"

Sail - In my personal experience, you would use this specifically if you were actually navigating a boat using sails.

Navigate - This sounds very...official. Like a formal way of saying "steer," which is another common word you can use.

Take a ride - You can definitely take a ride in a boat, and even take the boat for a ride.

Ride - As I stated above, you can "ride" in a boat, but I wouldn't ever say "I rode a boat to London" as in "I navigated a boat to London."

Paddle - Usually people only "paddle" really small, wooden boats. Paddle is also a noun, synonymous with oar!

Row - Same as above! Usually only applied with small, motor-less boats. You use oars (or paddles) to paddle and to row. There's even a famous children's song called, "Row, row, row your boat..." Look it up on YouTube!"

  • Thank you Casey James Gerland and all others who've left a comment. My question's labeled as Too General. Well actually this is exactly my problem ☺ The word boat is too general and liberal as it's used in English as opposed to my mother tongue. That's why I can't get it well. 😒
    – Yuri
    Feb 21, 2016 at 9:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .