The way we move (Verbs for walking and running)

by Kate Woodford​​​​
This week we’re looking at interesting ways to describe the way that people move. Most of the verbs that we’ll be considering describe how fast or slow people move. Others describe the attitude or state of mind of the person walking or running. Some describe both.

Starting with verbs for walking slowly, if we stroll, we walk slowly and in a relaxed way, usually for pleasure: They were strolling along the shore, holding hands. The noun ‘stroll’ is also used: We went for a stroll down near the river. (The adjective ‘leisurely’, meaning ‘relaxed and without hurrying’ is often used before the noun: We were just enjoying a leisurely stroll in the sunshine.) A slightly less common verb with a very similar meaning is saunter: He sauntered by, without a care in the world.

As to verbs for moving quickly, there are many of these and a lot of them describe, (or at least suggest), an extra quality beside speed. For example, if someone dashes somewhere, they hurry, often because they are late or they urgently need to do something: I had to dash to the shop before it closed./She dashed over to help. If you say that someone darts somewhere, you mean they suddenly move quickly: I saw a dark figure dart behind the bushes, as if hiding from view. A person who strides somewhere walks there quickly, and with big steps. They look confident and appear to have a purpose: She strode up to the front door and gave it a sharp knock. The verb pace means ‘to repeatedly walk quickly in one direction and then back again, usually because you are worried or nervous’: He paced up and down, waiting for the doctor to call. Meanwhile, if someone charges into/around/up/down, etc. somewhere, they move quickly, and without care: With so many kids charging around the room at once, someone was going to get hurt.

Some ‘quick walking’ verbs also suggest anger, for example, march. Someone who marches somewhere walks quickly, angrily and with purpose: She marched into my office and accused me of lying to her. Another such verb is storm. ‘Storm’ is usually used to describe someone entering or leaving a room or building, quickly and angrily: He stormed out of the meeting, clearly furious.

Two verbs which suggest the attitude of the speaker as much as the walker are breeze and waltz. Someone who says that a person breezes somewhere is usually annoyed at that person’s lack of worry or embarrassment: Maria breezed into the office as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile, if you say that someone waltzes somewhere, you are showing your annoyance at the relaxed and confident way in which they move: You can’t just waltz into my bedroom without knocking!



24 thoughts on “The way we move (Verbs for walking and running)

  1. Your photo is quaintly nostalgic. When I first visited London, some 50 years ago, nearly all buses had open platforms, and running to catch a departing bus was a common practice, I did it myself.

    But starting the in ’70s, these platforms began to disappear, as did bus conductors — the men and women who collected fares. Modern buses require passengers to enter in front and pay fares in view of the driver, now the sole member of the crew. Just like folks on single-deck buses around the world have long been doing.

    1. Elena Lysko

      Here I may appear rude but I found nothing unusual in the modern way of catching the bus: the man simply happened to come from the rear; otherwise he would rush to the front bus door from the front of the vehicle. What really caught my sight were the man’s pants: they look so funny if not ridiculous upon his clumsy legs. In his place I’d rather wear the stylish bell-bottoms (pants with legs that flare out at the bottom) from 60s.

      1. Vinod

        The annoying fact is that the writer forgot to say what kind of a movement is being made by the bus-chaser. Is he breezing? certainly not!

    2. FT

      In that case, I would like to bring to your attention that the new modern buses do have open platforms at the rear and there is a conductor there. The only exception is that you must touch in your Oyster card.

      1. Elena Lysko

        I found your comment most practicable for today’s needs of the travelers. Seemingly, your forgot to say where such new buses cross our roads for the customers’ convenience. And secondly, the Oyster card, what it is really like? Thanks.

  2. Pingback: The way we move (Verbs for walking and running) | My Private ELT Collection

  3. I disagree with the example given for the word march to be a reference to an angry walk. Band members march when they perform at football games. Soldiers and officers march in a parade. These people are not angry.

  4. I do not agree with the example given for the word march. It is incorrect. Band members march and play instruments when they perform during half time at football games. Soldiers and officers march in a parade.

  5. Pingback: Verbs (lexis) | ELT Infodump

  6. Pingback: Topical lexis | ELT Infodump

  7. Pingback: Verb, do you even lift? – Writing at Fire Woods Park

  8. M. Ozgul

    There ar so many other words in the list.
    rushed , hurried , raced , limped , dragged herself / himself , crawled , staggered , strutted etc

  9. Pingback: Talking about speed - About Words - Cambridge Dictionary blog

Leave a Reply