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Inflation is hovering at 3 percent.

Inflation is hovering at around 3 percent.

Inflation is hovering around 3 percent.

Do these three similar types of usage make a difference in the meaning of the verb? (even if it's slight)

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There is no difference in meaning. There may be a tendency to believe that your first usage indicates a specific, unchanging rate of three percent, however the use of the word "hovering" is interpreted literally in all the usages to mean, "making slight adjustments upward and downward, resulting in a net movement of zero." One might argue that using "around" or "at around" is redundant but their usage is nonetheless common.

Subtle differences in meaning can be conveyed but that would generally occur along with an associated context. Without context, inflation is understood to be a dynamic force resulting in the sentence, "Inflation is at 3 percent," to be understood as, "Inflation is hovering around 3 percent."

If an official agency is reporting the inflation rate as of a moment in time, July 10th for example, the sentence will be understood as, "Inflation is at 3 percent on July 10th."

Inflation is at 3 percent -- means the inflation rate is at an unvarying value of 3 percent.

Inflation is around 3 percent -- means the inflation rate is at an unvarying value that is at or very near to 3 percent.

Inflation is hovering at 3 percent -- means the inflation rate is varying with the mean being 3 percent.

Inflation is hovering around 3 percent -- means the inflation rate is varying with the mean being at or very near 3 percent.

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  • yeah, that was what I thought when I was reading - "redundant" , especially for the last two sentences . "Hovering" together with "at around" leaves the readers in kinda vagueness. Sep 27, 2016 at 19:57
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The usage of "at" in the first sentence and "around" in the third sentence means near or approximate, so there's no difference in meaning between these sentences.

As for the usage of at and arounnd together in the second sentence, one of the prepositions is redundant. We should use either at or around.

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