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ESL forum > Ask for help > "Over" or "Around"?    

"Over" or "Around"?

United Kingdom

"Over" or "Around"?

Dear Alicia,

In answer to your previous query regarding the use of “over” or “around” when completing the ‘Multiple-Choice Question’, here is my (British English) opinion.


over or around ?

Could anyone be so kind as to explain to me why (b) is the correct one ?

( according to the key ) :" Soon he was giving lectures all .......... the country".

(a) along   (b) over    (c) around   (d)  across

Why not (c) ? Thanks a lot !


Previous answers to your query are shown at this link.



I am assuming that the Question contained words which were similar to the following condition.  

“From the 4 answers shown, choose the one that you think is the most suitable”.


With the 4 words given, we have 4 possibilities.

1.      "Soon he was giving lectures all along the country".

2.      "Soon he was giving lectures all over the country".

3.      "Soon he was giving lectures all around the country".

4.      "Soon he was giving lectures all across the country".


If we use the Oxford Dictionary of English, (ODE), page 41, as a reference source, the word “all”, (an adverb of degree which modifies another word), means “completely” --- dressed all in black; she’s been all round the world; all by himself.


1) ALONG: ODE, page 41, the Phrase, “all along”, means: “all the time”; “from the beginning” --- she’d known all along.

ODE, page 45, the Preposition, “along”, means: “moving in a constant direction on (a more or less horizontal surface)” --- soon we were driving along a narrow road.

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, (CGEL), page 683, describes the Preposition “along” as “from one end towards the other”; or “in a line parallel with”.  It can refer to something which has length, such as a river, a road, a railway, a corridor, a line, for example.  A ‘country’ does not have only one dimension, length, it covers an area, so it has length and breadth.


Unless “the country” was a long, straight, very thin strip of land, I would not normally use the expression, “all along the country”.


2) OVER: ODE, page 41, (Phrase 2, informal), “all over”, means: “everywhere” --- there were bodies all over.

ODE, page 1253, the Preposition 4, “over”, means “expressing passage or trajectory across” --- she trudged over the lawn.

CGEL, page 684, says that the Preposition, “over”, especially when preceded by “all”, has a “pervasive meaning, either static or motional.”  In simple English, this means that the Phrase, “over all”, whether involving movement or not, means “spreading widely throughout the area”.

The example given is: “That child was running (all) over the flower borders”.


The expression, “all over the country”, seems to me to be the most natural sentence to use, in answer to this Question, because it implies that the Lecturer travelled “everywhere”, lecturing “widely throughout the area”.


3) AROUND: ODE, page 41, Phrase 1, “all round”, (US. “all around”), means: “in all respects” --- it was a bad day all round. [as modifier] a man of all-round ability.  2. “for or by each person” --- drinks all round.


According to the ODE, page 1536, the UK and the US utilise “round” and “around” differently.

In UK English, the two words are generally interchangeable, although the word “round” is preferred for definite movements --- “a bus came round the corner”; whereas “around” is often used for indefinite movements --- “she wandered around for ages”.

In US English, the word normally used is “around”, because “round” is regarded as informal or Non-Standard, except in certain fixed expressions --- “round and round in circles”.


ODE, page 86, the Preposition 1, “around”, means “on every side of” --- the hills around the city.

2, “in or to many places throughout (a community or locality)” --- cycling around the village; a number of large depots around the country.

3. “following an approximately circular route” --- he walked around the airfield.

4. “so as to encircle or embrace (someone or something)" --- he put his arms around her.

CGEL, page 682-683, says that the Preposition “(a)round”, refers to “Movement with reference to a directional path ...” and, “...the directional path is an angle or a curve”.  The example given is: we ran (a)round the corner.


From my (British) point of view, the expression, “all around the country”, seems to be a good choice, especially when one means --- “in or to many places throughout (a community or locality)”.  However, "Soon he was giving lectures all around the country", implies to me that he gave lectures in an “indefinite” fashion.  He lectured in many places, but not in every place.  Also, “around” suggests that he went on a circular tour, which means that he couldn’t visit every place.


4) ACROSS: ODE, page 15, the Preposition 1, “across”, means “from one side to the other of (a place, area, etc.)” --- I ran across the street; travelling across Europe.

CGEL, page 682-683, says that the Preposition, “across”, refers to “Passage”, with the example, across the grass.  A second meaning is, “Movement with reference to a directional path.”  The example given is, Be careful when you walk across the street.

At first, the expression, “all across the country”, seems to be acceptable.  However, it implies that the Lecturer travelled backwards and forwards “across” the country, from one side to the other.  Because the movement is in a “directional path”, it suggests that the Lecturer did not deviate from this path to visit other localities which were not on the line of travel.


For the above reasons, I would not choose, “all across the country”.


If the examinee must make one choice only, in my opinion, the most suitable choice is:

2.      "Soon he was giving lectures all over the country."

The reasons for this choice are given above.


Many Members of ESLP give very valuable responses to questions.

However, when I read some answers to queries regarding examination questions, I am often reminded of a joke that I heard at school.

A well-spoken man stops his car in a village, deep in the English countryside, to ask directions of a local villager.

“Excuse me!  I’m lost!  Can you tell me how you would get to London, starting from here?”

“Well!  If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here!”

It sounds very similar to:

“Excuse me!  I can’t answer this question!  Can you tell me how you would answer it?”

“Well!  If I were you, I wouldn’t answer this question!  I would change it to another question that I could answer!”


But I repeat: numerous Members of ESLP give extremely valuable replies to queries.


I hope that I have given you a little bit of help.


Please, accept my Very Best Regards to you and to your family.



5 May 2011      



I hate pushing you away from the forum view,  believe me, but I can ´t help telling you how absolutely delightful and reassuring your grammar is.

5 May 2011     


No matter how good Les ´s explanations are, the fact remains that this is a poor exam question. Questions on formal exams should never be ambiguous or lead to discussions such as this one. 

A good examiner would not have put both along and around as possible answers because in some cases or situations, both are acceptable. AFAIAC, students shouldn´t be tested on their knowledge of British or American English, or any other local variety. Never mind the regional differences, English has now become a world language which often incorporates a mix different local flavours.

5 May 2011     


Could we answer grammar inquiries in PMs?  This takes the whole forum ´s space.

5 May 2011     


@melahel7 - FYI - Regardless of the length of messages, the forum ´s front page always displays 10 posts, so long messages don ´t exactly push others from the front page - you just have to scroll down a bit more.

5 May 2011     

United States

In my opinion, grammar inquiries should be answered on the forum, not via PM.  Many people, even though they don ´t comment, read and learn from the answers.

5 May 2011     


I agree with the people who think that grammar questions should be answered on the forum. Thanks to people like Les, we all can learn a lot. They are always interesting, clear explanations to questions that are really useful for us all. If you are not interested, simply scroll down.
Thanks Les for your valuable help

5 May 2011     


Me too! Thank  Les for your valuable help!
Have a nice day Hug
Ana Isabel

5 May 2011     


I know I ´m not going to be very popular with this, but I have to agree with melahel7 to some degree. When a topic is over, a new thread to answer a grammar or vocabulary question should not be started up; especially when said question has been answered more or less to satisfaction. A private message should be sent instead.

We always tell people not to start new threads to answer questions. In fact, I have sent and received people PMs after-the-fact if the topic has disappeared from the main board. allowing one member to do this is not fair to the rest of us – and quite honestly, I do find it a tad annoying. It would be like me starting up a new topic to answer Yolanda ´s question about hot weather or Regina ´s query as to why we can ´t see which downloads have been downloaded or why we can ´t use "I don ´t either" instead of "neither do I".

I know that people value a good grammar explanation, but out of courtesy and the fact that others are not allowed to start up new threads to answer somebody ´s question, I have to agree with melahel7.

5 May 2011     


I love reading your grammar explanations, Les. Thank you for your effort and have a good day!

PS. You should publish your grammar book, it would be a hit among the ESL forum readers, I´d love to buy it and I do hope you collect all of your explanations on your computer! Please do!

5 May 2011     


Your grammar explanations are always welcomed Les. Melahel, most people here are not native speakers and often need to have certain points clarified. The explanations Les provides do exactly that. As Douglas stated people learn from these explanations and IMO that is one of the basic points of having this forum.

5 May 2011     

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