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In this audio file, what does the man say at 2:32? Is it:

Now, this motor in the back pushes the wheels around.

If so, what does push something around mean in this context?

Source: The ILI English Series, Intermediate 3, Student's book, Page 101

  • It is as you say. "Pushes the wheels around" means "turns the wheels round". – Mick Nov 28 '16 at 19:00
  • It means it "turns" the wheels around. – Peter Nov 28 '16 at 19:01
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The audio file does indeed say what you think it does.

What this means is that the motor turns the wheels – it rotates them through 360°. Consider the definitions of push and around:

push
Verb
[with object, usually with adverbial] Exert force on (someone or something), typically with one's hand, in order to move them away from oneself or the origin of the force.

"she pushed her glass toward him"
[with object and complement] "Lydia pushed the door shut"
[no object] "he pushed at the skylight, but it wouldn't budge"


around
Adverb
1.3 With circular motion:

"the boats were spun around by waterspouts"

This isn't, however, the only meaning of the phrase. In other contexts, push around might be the phrasal verb:

push someone around
Phrasal verb
informal Treat someone roughly or inconsiderately.

"You must hold your head up high and not allow those bullies to push you around"

It might also refer to pushing something around an obstacle, it may mean pushing it around (i.e. through the circumference of) a space, or it could be in the context of a child playing with food (pushing the vegetables around their plate):

around
Adverb
1.4 So as to cover or take in the whole area surrounding a particular center.

3 British So as to reach a new place or position, typically by moving from one side of something to the other.

4 Randomly or unsystematically; here and there.

If you encounter the phrase again in another or unfamiliar context, a dictionary will be your friend.

  • "If you encounter the phrase again in another or unfamiliar context, a dictionary will be your friend." Thanks for the answer and referring me to a dictionary! Actually my main problem was that I wasn't sure what he said with a German accent! – Mori Nov 29 '16 at 4:27
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When I hear or read "push the wheels around" I think of an old train wheel driveshaft:

enter image description here

The engine turns a gear (or a cam) that moves the shaft backward and forward. The shaft pushes against the wheel to transform the back-and-forth motion into rotational motion.

There are, of course, many, many other designs that have similar action. For example, this is a four-stroke engine with a similar mechanism:

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