Understanding the Idiom: "run past" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The idiom “run past” can also refer to a missed opportunity or chance that has already passed. It implies that one was not able to take advantage of an opportunity due to its fleeting nature. Additionally, it can be used figuratively to describe a situation where someone fails to notice important details because they are moving too quickly.

  • Examples:
  • – During the race, I saw my opponent run past me with incredible speed.
  • – I had a chance to invest in that company last year but let it run past me.
  • – You need to slow down and pay attention so you don’t run past any important information.

Understanding the nuances of this idiom is essential for effective communication in English language. By using it correctly, you can convey your thoughts and ideas more accurately and effectively.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “run past”

The idiom “run past” has been used in the English language for many years, with its origins dating back to early times. The phrase has evolved over time and has taken on different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.

One possible origin of the idiom comes from sports, particularly track and field events. In races such as sprints or relays, runners must pass a certain point before handing off a baton or finishing the race. If a runner fails to run past this point, they may be disqualified from the competition. This literal meaning of “running past” can be seen as a metaphor for overcoming obstacles or reaching goals.

Another possible origin of the idiom comes from military tactics. During battles, soldiers would often need to “run past” enemy lines in order to reach their objective. This required courage and determination, as well as quick thinking and agility to avoid being captured or killed by enemy forces.

The historical context in which the idiom was first used may have influenced its current usage today. For example, if someone says that an opportunity “ran past” them, they may be referring to a missed chance that they were not able to seize due to circumstances beyond their control.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “run past”

Variation 1: Running Past Someone or Something

One of the most common uses of “run past” is when referring to physically running past someone or something. This could mean passing by someone while jogging or sprinting, or surpassing an object while running a race. The phrase can also refer to figuratively running past someone in terms of achievement or success.

Variation 2: Time Running Past

“Run past” can also be used when talking about time moving quickly. For example, if you say that time ran past too quickly during a vacation, you are expressing how fast it seemed to go by. Similarly, if you say that deadlines are running past you, it means they are approaching faster than expected.

Note: It’s important to note that these variations may have slightly different connotations depending on the context in which they’re used.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “run past”


  • Pass by
  • Go beyond
  • Overtake
  • Surpass
  • Exceed

When someone says they “ran past” something or someone, it means they moved quickly beyond it. Synonymous expressions like “pass by” and “go beyond” also suggest movement in a certain direction. However, “overtake,” “surpass,” and “exceed” imply competition or achievement of a goal.


  • Linger behind/li>
  • Fall short of expectations/li>
  • Lose ground/li>
  • Stay put/li>

On the other hand, antonyms like “linger behind,” “fall short of expectations,” and “lose ground” indicate an inability to keep up with others or meet certain standards. In contrast, saying one should just “stay put” suggests not moving at all.

In some cultures, using idioms such as “run past” may be more common than others. For example, in Western societies where punctuality is highly valued, this expression might be used frequently when discussing time management. Meanwhile in Eastern cultures where patience is more highly regarded than speediness this phrase may not be used as often.

Understanding synonyms and antonyms for idiomatic expressions can help you better grasp their meaning while also expanding your vocabulary range. Additionally being aware of how these phrases are used across different cultures can help avoid misunderstandings during cross-cultural communication.

Practical Exercises for the Phrase “Run Past”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

In this exercise, you will be given a sentence with a blank space where the phrase “run past” should be inserted. Choose the correct word or phrase that fits best.

1. I ___________ my old friend at the grocery store yesterday. a) ran past b) ran into c) ran over
2. The deadline for submitting our project proposal has ___________. a) run past b) run out of time c) run away from us
3. The thief ___________ the security guard and escaped through the back door. a) ran into b) ran away from c) ran past
4. We need to hurry up if we don’t want to ___________ our flight. a) run out of time for b) run into c) run past

Exercise 2: Role Play

In this exercise, you will be paired with a partner and given a scenario where the phrase “run past” should be used. Practice using the phrase in different contexts and situations.

Scenario: You are at a job interview and the interviewer asks if you have any experience working in customer service. You want to mention that you worked as a cashier at a grocery store for two years.
Role Play: Interviewer: Do you have any experience working in customer service?You: Yes, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store for two years. During that time, I had to deal with various customers who were sometimes difficult to handle. However, I was able to learn how to handle them professionally and efficiently.Interviewer: That’s great! Can you give me an example of how you handled a difficult customer?You: Sure! There was one time when a customer was upset because she thought we overcharged her for an item. I explained the pricing policy to her calmly and patiently until she understood it. She eventually apologized for being rude earlier.Interviewer: Excellent! You seem like someone who can ___________ challenging situations very well!

With these practical exercises, we hope that you can improve your understanding of the phrase “run past” and use it confidently in everyday conversations. Keep practicing and expanding your vocabulary!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “run past”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and usage in context. The idiom “run past” can be confusing for non-native English speakers as it has multiple meanings depending on the context. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using this idiom:

Mistake 1: Using “run past” instead of “run by”

One common mistake is using “run past” instead of “run by”. While both idioms have similar meanings, they are used in different contexts. For example, you would say “I’ll run by the store later” instead of “I’ll run past the store later”.

Mistake 2: Misunderstanding the meaning

Another mistake is misunderstanding the meaning of “run past”. This idiom can mean either physically running past something or quickly mentioning something without going into detail. It’s important to understand which meaning is being used in order to correctly interpret what someone is saying.

  • Correct usage: I ran past my neighbor’s house on my morning jog.
  • Incorrect usage: I ran past my presentation during the meeting.

Mistake 3: Using incorrect verb tense

Using incorrect verb tense with this idiom can also lead to confusion. The correct form depends on whether you are referring to a present or past action.

  • Correct usage (present): He always runs past me on his way to work.
  • Correct usage (past): She ran right past me at the race yesterday.
  • Incorrect usage: He was running right passed me earlier today.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can confidently use the idiom “run past” in the correct context and meaning.

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