Intermediate+ Word of the Day: drive

drive (verb, noun) /draɪv/ LISTEN

To drive, as you probably already know, means ‘to operate a vehicle’ and also ‘to move using force.’ It also means ‘to urge or force to do,’ ‘to rush violently,’ and ‘to move something forward by hitting it.’ As a noun, a drive is a trip in a vehicle, something that pushes you to achieve a goal, or an inner urge to satisfy a basic need. Drive is also a synonym for energy or initiative.

Example sentences

  • Mark drives to work every day.
  • The truck hit the car and drove it right off the road.
  • Losing her job drove Imogen to consider a completely different career.
  • The rain was driving against the windows.
  • The carpenter drove the nail into the wood.
  • When I was a child, we would always go out for a drive as a family on Sundays.
  • John's drive to succeed keeps him going even when times are tough.
  • The new employee has a lot of drive.

Words often used with drive

hard drive: the part of your computer where all the data is stored. Example: ‘Wendy’s computer couldn’t be repaired, but the IT guys managed to save her files from the hard drive.”

drive something home: make your point forcefully, make sure you are understood. Example: “Parents often struggle to drive home the importance of responsible behavior when talking to their teenagers.”

drive something off: chase something away. Example: “The farmer drove off the pack of stray dogs that was bothering his sheep.”

drive-by (or drive-by shooting): when somebody shoots a gun from inside a car and then drives away. Example: “There was a drive-by shooting last night and the police are looking for the suspect.”

drive somebody crazy: this can mean ‘to really annoy someone.’ Example: “My little brother is driving me crazy; he always wants to come with me everywhere I go.” Romantically, it can mean ‘to make someone infatuated with you.’ Example: “That guy is so gorgeous; he drives all the girls crazy.”

drive-through (or drive-thru): when a business is designed to accommodate customers who make purchases or complete transactions from their cars. This can be noun or an adjective. Example: “The bank has outside windows to accept deposits by drive-through.” “Can we stop at the drive-through Mexican place on our way home? I want tacos.”

food drive, charity drive: an event to collect food or money for charity. Example: “My school does a food drive every year and donates everything to the local homeless shelter.” “The proceeds from our synagogue’s charity drive will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.” (Proceeds refers to money that is raised in an event.)

In pop culture

There are many songs that include the word drive. Here you can see Welsh rock and roll singer Shakin Stevens performing his hit song “You Drive Me Crazy.”

The song was released in 1981, but it is part of the new-wave rock and roll genre, so it is more similar in style to music from the 1950s than more typical 1980s pop. A song that uses drive in a more literal sense is The Beatles’ “Drive My Car.”

Did you know?

In sports, to drive means ‘to kick or hit a ball with force’ and the related noun drive is the act of kicking or hitting a ball. You might hear it a lot in baseball games or tennis matches, as well as in golf. In baseball, a line drive is a ball that is hit hard and low, and is difficult for the fielder to catch before it bounces. Example: “The batter hit a line drive deep to left field.”

Other forms

driving (adjective), driver (noun), driven (adjective)


Drive dates back to before the year 900, as the Old English verb drīfan, and later the Middle English verb drīven, both meaning ‘to drive,’ ‘force,’ ‘hunt,’ ‘pursue’ or ‘rush against something.’ It can be traced all the way back to the Proto-Indo-European root dhreibh– (to drive or push), and is related to the Dutch drijven, the Old Norse drīfa, the Gothic dreiban and the German treiben. While anciently, to drive meant ‘to push or direct from behind,’ as you would a cart with horses, the invention of the automobile expanded that meaning. The noun comes from the verb, and first appeared in the late 17th century, meaning ‘the act of driving.’ In the late 18th century, the meaning grew to include ‘an outing or excursion by vehicle.’ Drive, meaning ‘dynamism,’ first appeared in the early 20th century in the United States.

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