I just started learning about vector components and relative motion. I don't understand what relative to something means. I looked online but none of the explanations are helpful.

If someone could give me a very simple explanation, it would be appreciated.


Imagine that you are on a train, traveling at a steady speed of 50 miles per hour (mph). Your physics textbook on the table in front of you.

Now, you and the textbook (and the train) are all moving at the same speed. To an outside observer standing next to the train tracks, you and the book are each rushing by at 50mph. But, from your point of view, the book isn't moving at all. That is, it's not getting closer to or farther from you.

  1. You are moving at 50mph relative to the observer next to the tracks.
  2. You are not moving, relative to the textbook.
  3. The book, the train, and yourself are not moving at all, relative to each other.
  4. Relative to the train, the ground is moving by at 50mph.
  • $\begingroup$ So if I was climbing up the train you described at 1m/s relative to the train; the train "sees" me moving at that velocity? $\endgroup$ – cress Jun 11 '14 at 17:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Exactly. And I forgot to mention: relative to the train, the ground is moving by at 50mph. $\endgroup$ – bitsmack Jun 11 '14 at 17:16

protected by Emilio Pisanty Oct 30 '17 at 15:04

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.