04 May 2014

Grammar: Voyage, Travel, Journey and Trip

Here are four words that appear synonymous. They are quite understandably confusing to learners of English since they all deal with the same topic of moving from one place to another, but they cannot all be used in the same way with the same meaning.

Let’s take them one by one.


(noun, countable)  1. a long trip, especially by sea or space:  “a long voyage home” 2. a narrative about the events of a journey or exploration: “these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise” (Star Trek)
(verb) to traverse the sea or travel through space: “They voyaged to distant lands.”

So, we cannot use this word to talk about movements between short distances such as between home and work or even long distances over land or through the air.
(noun – singular, uncountable) the act of traveling* in general or as a domain: business travel, space travel, foreign travel, etc..
Here is where it becomes confusing. In the singular, this noun does not refer to one specific movement from one place to another. This is a general term about the subject or idea of traveling. Look at the following sentences to give you the idea:
“A lot of foreign travel is involved in his job.”  (not talking about any specific trip, but a generality) You cannot say “a lot of foreign travels are….”
“Business travel is an important revenue source for airlines.” (again, traveling in general, not a specific trip) You cannot say “Business travels are…”
(noun – plural, but still uncountable) a series or a collection of trips or voyages over time: “Have you ever read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift?”
As I wrote above, this is where it becomes confusing because in the plural form, we now talk about a collection of trips as a whole, but not taveling in general as in the singular. Look at these sentences to give you an idea:
“My travels as a journalist have taken to me to some exotic locations.”
“He’s met some very interesting people in his travels.”
Even though this word can be used in the plural as in the meaning above, it still remains an uncountable noun…you cannot say “one travel,” “two travels,” etc…
(verb) to move from one place to another: “He travels to work by car.” / “This train is currently traveling at 200 kph.”
As a verb you can seldom go wrong, since it refers to any movement from one place to another no matter the means of transportation. However, it would be rare for extremely short distances. It would seem odd to say I’m going to travel to the supermarket to get some milk.
“My father travels a lot in his job.”
“This month he is traveling to Turkey for his job.”
“The astronauts traveled to the moon in the Apollo Command/Service Module.”
(noun, countable) an occasion when you travel from one place to another, often used for distance: “The journey by train from Strasbourg to Haguenau is 30 minutes.”  / “It’s only about a twenty minute journey by car for me to get to work from home.”
This is for a single trip between two places. For example, if I were to fly home to Atlanta and I took the plane from Strasbourg, there would be two journeys. The first would be from Strasbourg to Paris and the second would be from Paris to Atlanta.
Did you note how I used the plural of this word in the above paragraph? We simply add an –s: journeys.
(verb) to travel somewhere, used for long distances
My advice: avoid using this as a verb, because I would say that most people would favor using the verb ‘travel’ over the verb ‘journey.’ It sounds more literary today.
(noun, countable) – an occasion where you go somewhere and back again, the whole process: “In July, I’m going to take a trip home.”
In the above sentence, it means I’m going home and coming back in July. If I simply said, “In July, I’m going home.” I might be going home permanently, I might be coming back the next month, or I just chose to leave out the part of coming back.
Now, a trip is a collection of journeys. When I do travel home and back in July, the trip home will include four journeys. The trip from Strasbourg to Atlanta via Paris and back again via Paris.
Trip (at least in the sense of movement between locations) is not a verb, but we use in verbal expressions such as:
to take a trip / to go on a trip / make a trip
“This summer, they’re going on a road trip across Europe.”
"My dad makes a lot of business trips during the year.”
“I’ve always wanted to take a train trip to Rome.”
“I’ll be right back. I just need to take a short trip to the store to get some milk.”
*’Traveling,’ with one ‘l’ is the American spelling. The British double the ‘l’ to become ‘travelling.’

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