What Do You Use for "Around" in Spanish

By Eric W. Vogt

English speakers use "around" in many senses. Consider just a few examples: "it's around here somewhere," "around the block," and "tied around the tree." This article explores how to express these meanings in Spanish.

Don't go Around in Circles ...

When an English speaker says "around the mulberry bush" or speaks of going around town, he is saying using the word in different ways. By looking at the most common ways in which this word is expressed in Spanish, you'll get an idea of the various ways we actually use the word around in English. The most common translation is alrededor, a word some English-speakers have trouble saying (try ahl-dreh-deh-DOR)

First, we may mean round about, as in the idea of surrounding on all sides or all around, in an adverbial sense:

Alrededor se ven muchos árboles (All around many trees can be seen).

Next, it can be used prepositionally, meaning around (with motion) or in a circle around (interior or exterior) or even spread about all around:

Hay una cola alrededor del edificio (There is a line of people going around the building). -- on the outside, admittedly moving, but not usually visualized as such.

El niño corría alrededor de la alberca cuando se cayó (The boy was running around the pool when he fell). -- moving around the outside.

Alrededor de la casa hay varios tipos de flores (Around the house, there are various types of flowers). Either outside or in various locations inside the whole house and static.

Another common, and often confusing preposition is por. One of its uses is to express the idea of around -- around in, along, within, parallel to, around -- in an immediate area, and even through:

Vamos a correr por el parque (Let's go run in/through/along/around in the park).

Mi billetera estará por aquí (My wallet must be around here somewhere).

The English word around can also be a synonym of about. In such cases it is used with numbers or ideas of quantity and translates as as a eso de, sobre, unos, unas and más o menos.