• 3-minute read
  • 14th June 2018

Word Choice: Around vs. Round

Jules Verne is well-known for sending Phileas Fogg ‘around the world in 80 days’. But are going ‘around’ something and going ‘round’ it the same thing? And if so, are these words always interchangeable?

Verne does not offer any answers to this question, unfortunately. But we can! Read on to find out how to avoid errors when using these terms.

Around (In a Circle, Nearby or Approximately)

‘Around’ can be used in several situations, but the most common are to mean:

  • In a circle or following the edge: The kids are running around the garden.
  • In all directions from here: You can see for miles around from the top floor.
  • Nearby: Are there any coffee shops around here?

In these cases, ‘around’ functions either as an adverb (i.e. a term that modifies an action) or a preposition that specifies the position of something in relation to whatever is surrounding it.

A different use of ‘around’ is to mean ‘roughly’ or ‘approximately’:

I’ve got around $200 dollars left in my account.

This is also an adverbial use, but it is a little different because it is not about movement or position.

Round (Circular and More…)

The word ‘round’ has many uses! One of these is as an alternative to ‘around’:

The kids are running round the garden.

You can see for miles round from the top floor.

Are there any coffee shops round here?

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But this is a little informal, so you should not use ‘round’ as a synonym for ‘around’ in formal writing.

However, this term can also be used as an adjective meaning ‘circular’ or ‘curved’ (even in formal writing):

Santa Claus has a big round belly!

This usage is distinct from ‘around’, as are its uses as a noun (e.g. ‘playing a round of golf’) and a verb (e.g. ‘rounding down a large number’). In these cases, then, ‘round’ cannot be switched for ‘around’ (e.g. we cannot say  ‘an around belly’, ‘an around of golf’ or ‘arounding down’).

Around or Round?

When used as an adverb or preposition, these terms overlap. Usually, this will be when you are describing an action, motion or the positions of something. For instance:

The Earth orbits around the sun.

The Earth orbits round the sun.

Both of these are correct, since ‘around’ and ‘round’ are interchangeable. The only difference is that ‘around’ is a little more formal, so you should use this term in essays or business documents.

In other cases, these terms have distinct uses. If you are referring to a rough value, the correct word will always be ‘around’. But ‘round’ can be a verb, a noun or an adjective, so this term is more versatile.

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