Around vs. round

Round works virtually anywhere around would work. The reverse is not true, as round has a number of definitions it doesn’t share with around. For example, it wouldn’t work to say that the edge of a circle is around, and I wouldn’t invite you to play an around of golf. But even though round works as a breezier alternative to around, round tends to create a casual tone, so around is usually safer in serious or formal writing.

British writers in particular are wont to use round in place of around. This substitution does occur in American English, but much less often.

Examples

Here are a few instances where the shorter round is used where around would also work:

He does admit there was the occasional cross word when his children were young and running round the house. [BBC News]

Early in the second half a man ran towards Lennon and attempted to punch and grab him round the neck. [Guardian]

The defendant then reached 60 miles per hour on a road with a 30 mile per hour limit and went round another roundabout in the wrong direction. [Birmingham Mail]

See also

Around the clock vs. round the clock

15 thoughts on “Around vs. round”

  1. talking of grammar, please reassess the following: ”
    British writers in particular are wont to use round in place of around. ”

    Reply
        • Please explain how that makes no sense. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the adjective “wont,” meaning “likely” or “accustomed.”

          Reply
          • Why don’t you just use “likely”? Not sure why would would use a word obscure enough to deserve its own post when a common word works equally well…

          • Well why don’t we all just go around using monosyllables? The beauty of the English language is that we have a huge range of synonyms with which to describe the world.

          • This is an informative article; its purpose is to clarify a grammatical confusion. I agree that the diversity of synonyms is important to poetic writing, and language for its own sake. Using a (somewhat) obscure word that causes confusion in an article when a simple word can do is a bit indulgent, in my opinion. This is fun!

          • Though I am not a native English speaker, but I have been studying, teaching and translating English for more than 30 years – not to mention reading English books and articles, this is the ‘first’ time I have ever come across this ‘wont’ word.
            I agree with wpfairbanks on using direct, clear English.
            Thanks to all

          • Agreed. A good vocabulary comes from something that is becoming more rare as the years go by. That “something” is: r e a d i n g!

          • “Wont” sure isn’t common, but it’s not obscure. I see it every now and then, popping up somewhere.
            Just because a word isn’t in your own vocabulary doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t use it. Plus, it’s a chance to learn new words, which is never bad.

  2. Thanks for the info. I’m very familiar w/ British usage of round in most cases. However, I’m currently reading Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, where both round and around are used interchangeably, often in the same page. Can you explain why both are used? Thanks.

    Reply
    • I thought that strictly speaking, round and around used to be distinct. Round was a preposition (eg. run round the circuit) and around was an adverb (eg, run around aimlessly). That distinction seems to have been lost, like many aspects of language that are too subtle for the self-published internet generation.

      Reply

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