Street English

Street English

“I love the idea of the street vibe, having folks together, out in the street at midnight.”

Sean Paul, a Jamaican rapper, singer and record producer

If you are sometimes (or always) confused about the use of articles with proper nouns/names (names used for an individual person, place, or organization, spelled with an initial capital letter), you’ll find the following information very useful.

We don’t use any article with most names of streets:

I live in Oxford Street.

Wall Street is a street at the south end of Manhattan.

I’ve always dreamed to walk down Fifth Avenue.

There is a good dental clinic in Harley Street.

Exceptions

  • the Arbat (but Arbat Street) (Moscow)
  • the Mall (London)
  • the Freedom Trail (Boston)
  • the FDR Drive (New York City)

Note that you need to use the with Main Street (American English) and high street (British English). These are not necessarily proper nouns but there is usually only one main street in a town or a city. Thus it makes sense to use the definite article with the phrases.

There is some trouble in the high street.

There is a nice restaurant on the corner of the High Street.

Turn left and follow the Main Street down to the intersection at Parkhotel Richmond.

His store is on Main Street.

On / in + street

You may have noticed that both on and in are used with the noun street.

Interestingly, on the street seems to be more common in American English, while in the street is more common in British. In general though we’d say in the street to indicate that someone or something is right in the middle of a street, possibly where a passing car could hit them. On the street may be more common when talking about a position of something along the road. Still, both in and on are used when street is used as part of an address:

She works on Oakwood Street.

Diane’s house is in Cherry Street.

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There some set expressions worth remembering:

  • on/in the streetsoutside in a city or town: 1) Additional police officers are being deployed on the streets. 2) There is violence in the streets.
  • on/in the street – with no place to live: 1) Funding to help families on the street is running out. 2) Our organization is trying to help children in the street.
  • the man on/in the street – a man or men who think like most other people: 1) To win the election she needs to understand what the man on the street wants. 2) When you understand the needs and wants of the man in the street, you’ll be a success in politics. (It’s possible to use woman/person in place of man in this idiom.)

More idioms

  • to be streets ahead – to be much better than other people/things: We are streets ahead of our competitors.
  • to be (right) up your street (BE) / to be (right) up/down your valley (AE) – to be the type of thing that you are interested in or that you enjoy doing: Kate loves dancing, so salsa lessons would be right up her street.
  • the streets are paved with gold – used for talking about a place where it is easy, or people believe it is easy, to become rich very quickly: Many people think that in LA the streets are paved with gold, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
  • to be in the same street/box/boat with someone – to be in the same difficult/unpleasant situation: We’re in same street, you know, and so we’d better try work together.
  • a two-way streeta situation in which two people or two groups of people need to work together: A relationship is a two-way street.
  • to be on easy street (informal) – to be rich: He’d do anything to be on easy street and that’s the problem.
  • street smarts – the ability to deal with difficult or dangerous situations of the type that you often find in big cities: To live in a city like this you’d really need street smarts / … to be street-smart.

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