Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! My name is Alisha.
In this lesson, I'm going to talk about 3 ways to use the word "about."
There are many more ways to use this word, but I want to introduce some very common ways we use this word and some key differences.
So, let's get started!
Okay, the first way that I want to talk about using "about" is "to give estimates."
So, "an estimate" is a guess. We make estimates about time or about distance or maybe even number of people, so we use "about" to do this.
It's less formal than the word "approximately."
So "approximately" is a very formal word. It means "about." We use "approximately" in, like academic papers. We use it like in scientific documents. We use it in business meetings, but when we want to speak very casually and casually give estimates in everyday conversations, it sounds much more natural to use the word "about," about.
So, let's look at some example sentences.
The first one:
"My house is about 10 minutes from here."
So "about" comes before the estimate.
"My house is about 10 minutes from here."
Also, a quick reminder, when you're using these estimates, in this case, a number estimate, make sure you're clearly pronouncing and you're clearly spelling the plural form, "10 minutes," "10 minutes from here," "about 10 minutes from here," so approximately, roughly. Maybe not exactly, but about, about.
The next example sentence:
"The class was about 2 hours long."
"2 hours," again, this is the plural form, "2," so we need to pronounce and spell with that S sound, "2 hours long."
Okay, one more example:
"We're about 3 weeks away from vacation!"
So, "3 weeks away from vacation" means vacation starts in about 3 weeks. That's a different way to say this sentence. So again, we have this plural form here.
Of course, if you're using a sentence that does not need the plural form, that's fine. Like, "We're about 1 km away from the office." So in that case, no S. But we use "about" to make these guesses, especially with numbers.
So, this is the first use I want to talk about.
Let's move on to the second use for this lesson.
The second use of "about" is "to introduce topics."
So we use "about" to mean "concerning" or "regarding." So, I sometimes see learners use the word like, "regarding (a topic)," but "regarding" and "concerning," as well, they sound quite formal. They sound quite polite. So in most cases, we use a pattern similar to the ones I'll describe here or we just don't introduce the topic in the same way as some languages do. So by this I mean, for example, sometimes, I see learners writing business emails and any introduction to their email, they'll say like, "regarding (this topic)" or "regarding (that topic)," "I'm writing to you regarding (that topic)." That's okay to do, but you don't need to start like all of your sentences with that point.
So, instead, I want to show some more, like natural examples of the ways that we use "about" in, to make kind of more casual everyday communication.
Okay, so let's take a look. Simple example:
"This is a book about birds."
So "about" here introduces a simple topic, "a book about birds." Birds, topic; book is the thing I'm discussing here.
Another one:
"Our classes are about English."
So this is for this channel, our classes are about English. This is the topic of our classes here, so I use "about."
Another one:
"The President gave a speech about the economy."
So, the speech, the topic of the speech was the economy. So here "about" introduces the topic.
"We're thinking about starting a business."
So here, what are we thinking? We're thinking, this topic about starting a business. So, this is an example of a situation where sometimes people say like, how, how do I know when to use this I-N-G form or why is this an I-N-G here? This is the present participle form of the verb "start." So we use the present participle form, this I-N-G form of the verb to create a noun. So, we're making a noun phrase here, "starting a business." "Starting a business" is a noun phrase. We use the present participle of a verb to do that. So, this part right here becomes a noun phrase and we can therefore follow the word "about" with it.
So you'll notice, actually, in all of these examples, "about" comes before a noun phrase. So here, English is my noun, birds is my noun. So, when you're using something like this to introduce a topic, you can use, of course, patterns like this like, "I'm writing to you about this topic." That's going to sound a little bit less formal than, "I'm writing to you concerningโ€ฆ" or "I'm writing to you regarding (that topic)."
If you use these two words in like a message to your co-workers, someone that you're fairly close to, it can sound a little too polite. So sometimes, I receive like emails or other kind of not-so-formal messages from students or from close co-workers, and they use these words, and it makes them feel very formal. And so you don't always need to use this level of formality when you introduce your topics. You can just say, "I'm writing to you about (noun phrase)," or, "I'd like to talk to you about (noun phrase." That will sound a little bit less formal.
So of course, every workplace and every school situation is different, but if you're close to the person, you can usually use the word "about" to introduce your topic instead of "regarding" or "concerning."
Okay, so with that, I want to go on to the third use of "about" for this lesson.
The third use of "about" is this one that means "around." So we use "about" to mean "around." So, keep in mind, this use I'm going to talk about is different from this one here. So, we can use the word "around" to give estimates. So, I could say, "My house is around 10 minutes from here," or "The class was around 2 hours long," or "We're around 3 weeks away from vacation!" That is okay to do. However, this use of "around" does not refer to giving an estimate. It means, like "to be near something" is one, or, it means, like "to go in like a series of locations near something else."
So, let's take a look at some examples and more information to see this here.
One key point, actually, about this use of "about," this use of "about" is more common in British English than in American English. So I, personally, I'm an American English Speaker and I don't use this kind of "about" very often. It sounds a bit old fashioned to me or it sounds more like British English. This is not, kind of speech pattern that I personally use very much, but it is fairly common in TV and in movies.
So let's take a look at some examples.
"We walked about the neighborhood."
So here, I could use "around" to mean near that area or in a series of points, the series of places around that area. So, "We walked about the neighborhood" means like you kind of just went to many different places in that zone, in that area. So, in the neighborhood, yes, inside that neighborhood, you went to a few different places. So, you might hear "about" used to mean "around." We would say "around" in American English. You might hear "about" in British English.
Let's look at one more example, here:
"They traveled about the countryside last summer."
So here, this is very similar to the first example sentence, just the zone is larger. So, first example sentence, the first example sentence used neighborhood. Here, in this second example sentence, I'm using countryside, so "they travel about the countryside" means they traveled to a few different locations around the countryside. So "around" in American English, perhaps "about" in British English, in some cases. So this just means going to a few different places, a few different regions perhaps in whatever the countryside area is.
Okay, so I want to look at this last example sentence because this one has the meaning of "near" or like near an area which is slightly different from these two example sentences.
"There are a lot of strange people out and about tonight."
Okay, so here, I've included this expression, "out and," "out and about." "Out and about," this means like out of one's house. "Out and about" means like near the speaker or near the person making the observation. So, "There are a lot of strange people out and about tonight," meaning like, people who are outside their houses and doing things near me, I can see them.
You might hear this without this "out and," so the sentence would be, "There are a lot of strange people about tonight," but that's going to sound a little bit more formal. "Out and about" sounds kind of friendly. It sounds kind of like casual, people are going out and doing things.
You could say like, you know, "There are many people out and about this Saturday afternoon." That's fine. It doesn't have, like a positive or a negative nuance. It just means there are many people outside their homes or like outside their neighborhoods and doing things near me or near this area, "out and about." So "about" just means near in this case.
So, you can see then, depending on the context, if it's about travelling or moving, you can kind of imagine it's about visiting a series of locations somewhere. If there's nothing like that in the sentence, like in this case, it's kind of more about being near someone, being near the speaker or being in a region near like a specific situation. So "about" for travel and "about" for like a vicinity, an area close to you.
Okay, so, those are three different ways to use "about" and a little bit of a reminder about using the word "around" as well. So, I hope that this was helpful for you. Of course, there are other ways to use the word "about," but I wanted to review a few very common ways that this word is used in this lesson. Of course, if you have any questions or comment or if you want to practice making an expression or a sentence or a paragraph with this grammar or with other things I talked about in this lesson, please feel free to do so in the comment section. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!


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First of all, let me Thank you for giving me the opportunity for joining this class free of charge. and also want tell you that I have learned a lot from this lesson and it's interesting to me.