"around five p.m." or "at around 5 p.m."

Discussion in 'English Only' started by marrisol, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. marrisol Member

    German - Swiss
    Hello all,

    my question might be a typical case of splitting hairs since it doesn't make much of a difference whether or not you use the preposition "at"... but just out of curiosity, can anybody tell me if both of the following sentences are gramatically correct?

    1) It gets dark at around 5 p.m.
    2) It gets dark around 5 p.m.

    Personally, I would opt for sentence 1) since we generally use "at" when referring to specific times of the day but I believe to have heard sentence 2) more often.

    I'd be happy to hear some of your opinions!
  2. MichaelW Senior Member

    English (British)
    I'm equally happy with either.
  3. MJSinLondon Senior Member

    English - UK (London)

    I agree. I'd use the second as it's shorter.
  4. marrisol Member

    German - Swiss
    Thank you both for your answers!
  5. Balteau New Member

    American Sign Language & English
    I have a question about "around to", let me give you an example. "I will be in office around to noon." Does this mean I will be in office until noon?
  6. MJSinLondon Senior Member

    English - UK (London)
    No, this is not correct English (BE anyway).

    "I will be in the office until around noon" means I am in the office now and will stay there until about 12.00. I may leave a little before or a little after 12.00.

    "I will be in the office around noon" means something different. It says nothing about where I am at the moment. But I will be in the office later, at about 12.00, although I am not specifying the time exactly.

    I cannot think of a sentence including the phrase " around to" except something like "I wonder whether the gardener will be around to cut the grass this afternoon"; But in that sentence, the words 'around' and 'to' are not really linked as a phrase.
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  7. Balteau New Member

    American Sign Language & English
    Thank you for immediate response to my question. Someone sent me an email using "around to noon" confused me. Now I am all cleared. Thanks!
  8. mrandrewlally New Member

    I disagree that using both prepositions are necessary.
    It either gets dark around 5pm or it gets dark at 5pm.
    The first is general and allows some latitude for the time of sunset. The second is specific and doesn't allow for a few minutes before or after.
    Based on Orwell's 6 rules of English, one of these prepositions is redundant, not needed and should be cut from the phrase. Why do we need 2 prepositions when 1 will do?
    I would always delete the "at", unless it's specifically at that time, like "sunset was at 5.03pm on Monday, 20 November."
  9. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    That's what is known as a straw man. Nobody said that using both prepositions is necessary. I also didn't realise that Orwell was a rule-making authority on English usage - he was, of course, entitled to his opinion. There is no rule of English to prevent the use of "It gets dark at around 5pm", and there is nothing ungrammatical about it. "It gets dark at {a time}" is correct. The phrase "around 5pm" is a time statement, exactly as is "approximately 5pm", and with the same meaning. I can't see anybody saying "It gets dark approximately 5pm", can you?
  10. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    At around 5 o'clock and Around 5 o'clock are, of course, acceptable. Perhaps around is preferred in AE.

    The Orwell rule is If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (See George Orwell - Politics and the English Language - Essay)

    His rules are certainly worth reading and he is as much entitled to state them as some grammarians.
    But he falls into the same trap that people who lay down rules sometimes fall into: he sometimes breaks them.

    In the text I quoted from he writes Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    But in the second paragraph of the text, he writes "Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble."

    So much for this rule! :)

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