Dear experts,

Would you confirm that the expressions below share only ONE meaning in which they may be interchangeable (YES/NO):

on a run
on the run

on a run - 1. running: Colonel Armant came on a run to find out who gave the order to fire.
2. (of a dog) on a leash: My parents live in rural yet townish sort of area - we had a dog we kept on a run.
3. (of a dog) exercise in running: Likes to go for long walks in the park and good for anyone who wants to take a dog on a run.
4. on a single trip or journey: They were the quickest two-wheel drive car G2 and G5 combined, and posted the quickest time on a run in the same category.

on the run - 1. = on a run 1: Workers roofing a house nearby heard the screams and came on the run.
2 without stopping or pausing: We are so busy at the office these days that I have to eat my lunch on the run.
3. busy moving from one task to another: With three young children to take care of, Helen is kept on the run every minute of the day.
4. running away from prison, the police, etc.: He went to meet a Franc-Tireur who was on the run after killing several Germans.
5. (of an army) retreating: On the southern section of the front we now have the enemy on the run.
6. severely defeated: Conservatives are on the run throughout Wales.

Thank you,

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Original Post
I think "run" in your sentences "on a run" does not form a collocation with "on a." Instead, "run" is a singular count noun. In the last three sentences, "on the run" could be used in contexts where the definite article is called for, for example, second mention, or, for a noun both speaker and listener know:

"¢ The run that we keep our dog on was flooded.
"¢ I'm talking about the run we took the dog on on Saturday, not on Sunday.
"¢ The run was won by the xxx car.

In the first sentence, "on the run" would be the expression to use. "On the run" is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary* and appears in two idioms in the Collins Cobuild English Dictionary**. "On a run" does not appear in either.

The Collins online concordancer***, likewise, displays no examples in the five appearing for "on a run" that could not also be "on the run." The maximum of 40 examples is displayed for "on the run."

The American Heritage gives 30 meanings for "run" as a noun, most of which can be used with either the definite or indefinite article.

"The run" and "a run" do appear in certain fixed idiomatic expressions like these:

"¢ The dog seems to have the run of the house.
"¢ Make a run for it.
"¢ Give them a run for their money.
All your definitions and examples for "on the run" are what one would expect.

Here's a puzzler: How would you define "on the fly"? Would it appear as synonymous for "on the run" with any of your definitions?

* The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2003
**The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary. Harper Collins. 1995

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