about - definition and synonyms

adverb, preposition 

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About can be used in the following ways:
as a preposition (followed by a noun): He told me about your problem.
as an adverb (without a following noun): Stop rushing about.
after the verb ‘to be’: Is your father about?
followed by an infinitive with ‘to’: I was just about to explain.
  1. 1
    concerning a particular subject
    1. a.
      used for stating who or what you are discussing, considering, describing, forgetting etc

      Think about what I’ve told you.

      jokes about the president

      all about:

      They’d forgotten all about poor Harry.

    2. b.
      used for stating who or what your feelings and attitudes are directed towards

      I’m worried about Dad.

      There’s nothing to get excited about.

    3. c.
      spoken used for introducing a subject that you want to discuss

      About that money I owe you – I can pay you back next week.

      It’s about Jack – he’s been so depressed lately.

  2. 2
    not exactly a particular amount or number
    1. a.
      used for showing that you are guessing at an amount or number

      About 250 people were killed in the explosion.

      Anthea must be about the same age as you.

    2. b.
      used for referring to a time that is not exact

      I woke up at about 3 am.

      round about:

      It must have been round about six when we got home.

  3. 3
    used for showing movement
    1. b.
      literary moving so that you face in the opposite direction

      Diana turned about and marched out of the room.

  4. 4
    used for saying where someone/something is
    1. a.
      used for saying that things are in many different parts or areas, especially because they have been left there carelessly

      Don’t leave important papers lying about on your desk.

      There were articles of clothing scattered about the room.

    2. b.
      in or close to an area

      The building was in darkness and there was no one about.

      You shouldn’t have been spraying weedkiller while there were children about.

    3. c.
      literary surrounding or enclosing someone or something

      Rasula wore a garland of flowers about her neck.

      The prophet had gathered about him a band of faithful followers.

  5. 5
    how someone is spending their time British
    1. a.
      spending time in a place and not leaving it or not doing much

      They’ve kept us waiting about all morning.

      Dad was pottering about in the garden.

    2. b.
      wasting time and behaving in a stupid way

      Stop messing about. We’ve got a job to do.

  6. 6
    searching, looking, or trying to find someone/something
    1. a.
      British used for saying that someone looks in different places to find someone or something

      George was groping about in the dark, trying to find the light switch.

    2. b.
      mainly literary used for saying that someone looks in all directions to see who or what is there

      Looking about me, I could see no sign of the others.

  7. 7
    used when you are making an extreme statement that you think is almost completely true or is probably true

    Pam’s about the only person that I can trust.

    On this continent, Redmond is about as far west as you can go.

    He’s offended just about everybody.

  8. 8
    used when referring to qualities that someone or something has

    One thing I like about Tony, he always says exactly what he thinks.

    There was something about her that made him uneasy.

  9. 9
    British mainly spoken used for saying that a particular type of person or thing exists or is available at this time

    There’s a lot of illness about.

    I was looking for a real fur jacket. You don’t see them about much nowadays.

See also