Multiple Meanings of Run & Understanding Words in Context

by | Mar 23, 2016 | 6 comments

One of the great challenges in English is understanding words with multiple meanings. For example, the meaning of run is completely different in the following sentences:

  • I love to go for a run in the mornings.
  • I’m sorry – I have to run to a meeting. I’ll see you later!
  • I’m going to run to the cafeteria downstairs – do you need anything?
  • Oh no! I have a run in my stockings! This looks terrible!
  • The house on the corner with the ivy running up the side is for sale.
  • Did you hear that Joseph is going to run in the election?

To best understand the meaning of run, we have to understand the full context. 

Context is the meaning of the whole sentence, not just the individual words. The full sentence gives us a picture and helps us understand if runs means:

  • to move your legs quickly, more rapidly than walking (like for exercise)
  • to make a short quick trip (like running to the grocery store quickly)

With this lesson, you’ll learn to use the most common meaning of the word run and you get the chance to practice with some of your own sentences.

Meanings of Run as a Verb

Run: to move legs quickly, more rapidly than a walk

I run every morning for exercise. It also helps clear my mind and reduce stress!

Run: to move or act quickly

Run to the kitchen to get the stain cleaner! This red wine will stain the sofa if we don’t clean it immediately.

I’m sorry, I’ve got to run. I have a meeting in 10 minutes but I’ll call you tomorrow so we can finish talking.

Run: to make a quick trip, an informal and short visit

I’m going to run to the grocery store for some milk and apples. I forgot to get them earlier. Do you need anything?

You should run next door to wish Jon a happy birthday. They are leaving soon but I know he would really appreciate seeing you.

Run: to be in or to campaign in an election

Can you believe there are 12 candidates running in this year’s election? That is just too many people!

I’m thinking about running for president of the association. What do you think?

Run: to flow as liquid, to flow along or to empty liquid contents

The river is running very strong right now after all the rain!

The Volga River is 2,290 miles long and runs into the Caspian Sea.

Run: to creep, trail climb or grow as vines

I’ve always loved homes with ivy running up the sides of the house.

Meanings of Run as a Noun

Run: the act, the length of time or the distance for running

He just finished his 5-mile run.

Will you join the 10-k run to help raise funds for Breast Cancer?

Run: the line or place where stitches in a fabric come undone

I just bought these stockings and they already have a run in them! I’m so frustrated.

Here is my challenge for you this week:

Choose 2-3 new uses of the word run. Create your own sentences using the word. Try to use sentences that you might use for your normal life in a conversation or business situation. Can you think of any examples?

Share your examples below. I will help you if you are not sure. And then try to use these sentences this week. Remember: the number 1 secret to learning a new word is repetition, so try to use this new meaning until it is natural for you to use it.

Then repeat with another new meaning.

I’m excited to read your example sentences!


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