Explained: The Distinction Between Ride and Drive

The difference between ride and drive depends on various factors, like the type of vehicle, transportation mode, and the construction of the sentence. Moreover, both words have different and multiple meanings.

The general consensus of ride and drive is that the ride is used for 2-wheel modes of transport, such as motorcycles or bicycles.

In this context, the person is in control of the vehicle. Keeping that in mind, here is an example.

  • He rides a Harley Davidson.

While the drive is used primarily for 4-wheel modes of transport, such as a car or van.

In this context, the person is in control of the vehicle. Keeping that in mind, here is an example.

  • She drives a BMW.

In normal American English, basically you “ride” vehicles that aren’t enclosed and you’re controlling them, while you “drive” vehicles that are enclosed. So you “ride” a scooter, a bicycle, a bike, etc, and you “drive” a car, a truck, etc.

Furthermore, the ride is applicable for an animal mode of transportation, such as a horse or camel.

  • She rides a horse.

Here is a table for the differences between drive and ride.

It’s used for enclosed as well as 4-wheeled vehiclesIt’s used for open space and 2-wheeled vehicles, as well as animals and rides
He can drive a car and a truck
He rides a motorbike as well as a horse
She can ride a golf cart
They rode a rollercoaster
It’s used when you are the one who will be controlling the vehicleIt’s used when you are traveling as a passenger
Drive VS Ride

Keep reading to know more.

Are riding and driving the same?

a person behind a steering wheel
Both ride and drive are verbs.

Ride and drive are two verbs that have different meanings and are used in different contexts which means that they aren’t the same.

Ride is used for two types of transportation, which are 2-wheeled vehicles and animal modes of transportation.

  • He rides a scooter.
  • She rides a camel.

Drive, on the other hand, is used for 4-wheeled vehicles.

  • He drives a truck.

The above definitions for a ride and drive were used in a context where the person is controlling the vehicle.

Is “Go for a ride” different from “Go for a drive”?

a vespa
“Go for a ride” and “Go for a drive” mean different things contextually.

“Go for a ride” and “Go for a drive” are used in different contexts. Both of the sentences may look like they can be used interchangeably. However, that’s not the case.

Moreover, both are used when one wants to go out for fun.

“Go for a ride” is used when the vehicle is of 2 wheels, like a scooter.

“Go for a drive” is used when the vehicle is of 4 wheels, like a car.

To sum up, the factor that makes “go for a ride” and “goes for a drive” different is that “go for a ride” is used when one is asking someone to go for a ride on 2 wheeled vehicles. While “go for a drive” is used when one is asking someone to go for a drive on a 4-wheeled vehicle.

Moreover, “go for a ride” can also be used for fun rides in an amusement park.

The sentences can be used regardless of who will be controlling the vehicle. However, the person asking to “go for a ride” or “go for a drive” will most probably be controlling the vehicle.

“Go for a ride” is often used interchangeably with “go for a drive,” as some people may have the idea that both mean the same things. However, there is nothing wrong with using the sentences interchangeably as people get the idea of what one means.

Do you “drive” or “ride” a car?

a person smiling in the sun
“Ride” is for passengers, and “Drive” is for drivers.

The word “drive” means driving a 4-wheeled vehicle, and a car is a 4-wheeled vehicle. “Ride” refers to riding a 2-wheeled vehicle or animals. “Ride” is also used for rides like rollercoaster rides.

“Drive” and “ride” both can be used for a car, however, it depends on who is driving. When a person is saying to someone, “let’s go for a ride”, that person is implying that they won’t be driving the car, meaning that they will be traveling as a passenger.

On the other hand, when a person says “let’s go for a drive” to someone, it means that the person saying to go for a drive will most probably be driving the car. Although “drive” is generally used for a car, “ride” is used for 2-wheeled and open-space vehicles, like scooters, bikes, and golf carts.

Basically, a ride is used when one is traveling as a passenger, whereas a drive is used when one is driving.

Nonetheless, both can be used interchangeably as both commonly mean the same thing. There aren’t any restrictions on using the same meaning words in spoken English.

When do we use ride and drive?

a person on a motorcycle
Contrary to popular belief, ride, and drive aren’t actually interchangeable.

Ride and drive are verbs that more than often, are used incorrectly. However, let’s get into it and know how and when to use them.

Ride is used with 2-wheeled and open space vehicles, as well as animals and amusement park rides. Drive, on the other hand, is used with enclosed and 4-wheeled vehicles.

Here are some examples:


  • He rides a motorbike.
  • They rode a golf cart.
  • She rides a horse.


  • She drives a Bentley.
  • He drove a truck.

Furthermore, a ride is also used when you are traveling as a passenger.

  • He rode a bus home.

Here is a video to learn more about how to use a ride and drive properly.

Ride and drive differences

What is the difference between a ride-in and a ride-on?

Before learning about what’s the difference between a ride in and ride on, one must know when to use in and on, therefore, let’s first learn about the two prepositions that may change the meaning of the phrase or sentence.

In and on are two prepositions that are used to describe the location, as well as other things, and there are easy rules that can help you choose when to use in and when to use on. However, there are some exceptions to the rules.

  • In: it’s used when something is inside of a space, like a yard, flat space, or a box. Moreover, the space doesn’t require to be closed from all sides.
  • On: It’s used when something touches the surface of something, like a beach.

The best way to understand the differences between in and on is that, “in” refers to something which is inside something, while “on” refers to something which is on the surface of something.

  • He rides in a car.
  • He rides on a bus.

“Ride in” implies that one is inside of vehicle, like a car, while “ride on” implies that one is on the vehicle, like a bus. “Ride in” is commonly used for small vehicles like cars, while “ride on” is used for bigger vehicles like a bus or a ship.

To Conclude

a bus full of people
Ride and drive differ depending on the vehicle and mode of transportation.
  • Ride and drive differ based on vehicle types and transportation modes.
  • The ride is for 2-wheeled, open-space, and animals; drive is for 4-wheeled vehicles.
  • “Go for a ride” vs. “go for a drive” changes based on vehicle types.
  • “Ride in” is inside a vehicle; “ride on” is on its surface.
  • Use “ride in” for small vehicles and “ride on” for larger ones.
  • The ride is for passengers; the drive is for drivers, typically for 2-wheeled versus 4-wheeled vehicles.
  • In conclusion, ride and drive aren’t the same; they’re for specific vehicle types.
  • “Ride in” means being inside; “ride on” means being on the vehicle’s surface.

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