Curbs and Sidewalks

By Maeve Maddox

Rod poses the question:

In Spanish the words curb and sidewalk are interchangeable. Is it the same in English?  

In U.S. English, the word sidewalk refers to a paved footpath alongside a street or a road. The sidewalk is usually raised above the level of the road. The curb is a stone or concrete edging between the road and the sidewalk.

In British usage, curb is spelled kerb. What Americans call a sidewalk, British speakers call the pavement.

Merchants that Americans call “street vendors” or “sidewalk vendors” are called “kerb-merchants” or “kerb-vendors” by British speakers.

Curious about the alleged lack of distinction between sidewalk and curb in Spanish, I looked the words up in my New World Spanish Dictionary and found the following:

acera: sidewalk; Mexican banqueta
encintado: curb (of a sidewalk)
borde de acera: curb

Comments from Spanish speakers welcome.

37 Responses to “Curbs and Sidewalks”

  • Dulce Diaz

    I was just trying to undestand the difference betwenn curb and sidewalk that I found a little bit confuse and you just cleared up my mind!

    In México we don´t care about the curb and rarely refer to it. We normally use sidewalk (banqueta) while talking.


  • peugeot 1.1

    Lovely piece, many thanks for making the effort to throw it up

  • Robert Gustafson

    “A Person is Not a ‘They.’

    Someone receives a phone call. After the conversation you ask,”So, what did they want?
    Response>> “They just wanted me to try a new phone sevice.”
    (( Sometimes (not often) you really can’t tell if it was a HE or a SHE.))

    So, what did that person want? Grammatically correct, but nobody use that phrase.

    So, what did he or she want? VERY AWKWARD.

    I think THEY replaces (( [He or she] ))

    Of course, that is what everyone means when they use THEY.

    They = HE or SHE

    Zappit Electric just raised its rates. (Not “their rates”)
    This does not sound awkward. BUT …>>

    Why not ‘they’ or ‘their’ if you take it to mean the people
    who work at Zappit Electric?

    Just like in sports if you think of the team — as all of the players on the team.

    Example: The Chicago Bulls are playing their best basketball ever this month. OR
    The Utah Jazz are playing their best baketball ever this month.

    NOT The ‘Chicago Bulls’ is playing its best basketball ever this month.


    The ‘Utah Jazz’ is playing its best basketball ever this month.
    In this example ‘is playing’ sounds okay and is grammatically correct.

    Collectively the team is one entity like Zappit Electric.

    Jazz is my favorite kind of music.

  • Chris

    Being a Brit who has lived in the US for the past 15 years, I’m usually carefully to learn the differences and avoid ambiguities between our languages. It has become a source of amusement to my girlfriend whenever I talk about the ‘carriageway’ as the surface upon which the vehicles are driving (hence, in England, some four-lane highways are known as dual carriageways – two in each direction).

    Pavement in the States refers to the durable bituminous surface of the ‘carriageway’, whereas it is the pedestrian’s walking surface in UK, which is bound by a kerb.

    Kerb crawling is the act of soliciting ‘ladies of the night’ from one’s motor vehicle.

  • codebeard

    Kathryn, usually we (Australians) would just call that a “path” if it were not alongside a road.

  • Kathryn

    Interesting, hz. In America, at least, “footpath” would generally be used to refer to a walkway that does NOT run parallel to a street–for example, on many college campuses there are footpaths running from one building to another across broad swathes of lawn.

  • Denisse

    It is interesting to find out that you can learn Spanish, which is my first language, in an English-writing tips website. Thank you a lot I had no idea that these words existed in Spanish hehehe

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