I met this phrase in Harry Potter book 1, "...the train rounded the corner..."

Could you tell me if it is the common way of saying what it means or maybe better "went round the corner" or "turned round the corner"?

Is the usage of "round" as a verb common in this sense?

To me it sounds like "make the corner rounded, smooth"

  • You should check a dictionary before asking this question.
    – The Photon
    Dec 7, 2017 at 15:53
  • @ThePhoton This isn't about the dictionary but about modern usage. Dec 7, 2017 at 15:54
  • @ThePhoton I don't think SovereignSun is confused about what it means. I think he's asking how it's used, which dictionaries don't tell us.
    – Andrew
    Dec 7, 2017 at 15:54
  • 2
    If you're rounding a corner, it implies that you were going fast enough to where you didn't necessarily stop, turn 90 degrees, and then keep walking/running, but instead, you tried keeping your original speed, and as a result, you "formed a curve" when going around the corner. Imagine how a baseball player who's running around the bases runs. He/she doesn't stop at the base, turn their body, and then start running again. But instead, they keep as much speed as they can by rounding the bases. The round element of the phrase refers to the shape of the path that the person took.
    – user30379
    Dec 7, 2017 at 19:44
  • 1
    We also say that ships rounded a cape. In 1488, Captain Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope.
    – TimR
    Dec 8, 2017 at 14:55

4 Answers 4


It's not an unusual turn of phrase, meaning it doesn't draw any special attention. It's not notably a "British" or an "American" expression either, nor is it a colloquialism or from any particular dialect.

It is slightly literary in that (as a verb) it's something I would read but not say. For example, if I was a policeman following someone I might yell:

The suspect went around that corner!

and not

The suspect rounded that corner!

This is probably because "rounded the corner" describes the action of turning, and not the eventual destination. There isn't any context where I would use it, outside of telling a story. But in a story it's perfectly normal.

There is a related expression, "just round the corner" which can be spoken, either meaning literally "as you turn the corner of the next street" or figuratively "nearby".

There's a great deli just round the corner where they make the best pastrami sandwiches.

  • 2
    +1 for "something I'd read but not say" – I think that covers it pretty well. The verb rounded in this sense has a certain "storyteller" aura to it.
    – J.R.
    Dec 7, 2017 at 17:40

You said:

To me it sounds like 'make the corner rounded, smooth'

That might make sense if the sentence was:

The carpenter rounded the corners of the door

but I don't see how that would make any sense in the context of a train!

As what the phrase means, it could mean

The train went around the corner

in the case of a departing train, or

The train came around the corner

in the case of an inbound train.

As for whether or not this is a common usage or a rare/unusual usage, I think @Andrew was right on track about that. There's nothing unusual or jarring about it, especially in the context of a story. It's found elsewhere in literature, as in this excerpt (from the Simon & Schuster Survivors series):

She saw her mother reach out to steady her father, then the wagon rounded the corner and was gone, hidden by the pines.

  • Thanks for answer. Say do you know (is there one) a technical term for rounding corners of things? Dec 9, 2017 at 6:32
  • Not really. The word "chamfer" is close, but that refers to more of a beveled corner than a rounded one. What's wrong with rounded?
    – J.R.
    Dec 11, 2017 at 17:17

I think it’s a less common way of expressing the thought. More usual is “turning the corner”. Also trains don’t encounter corners actually, so they are more often seen “rounding a bend” or “rounding a curve“


In some cases (non-literary) it's used as an abbreviated form of Around. The song "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" is one example. In the Southern US we tend to say we're "going 'round" to indicate we're visiting someone or stopping somewhere. "I went 'round to all the neighbors' houses to collect money" or "Are ya'll comin' 'round this weekend to visit?"

In general terms, I've heard "he rounded the corner" rather often around my parts. Funny enough as I think about it, I remember when I worked with the police constantly hearing "rounded the corner of ___" a lot.

  • Can I use it a lot? Or rather may I? Dec 7, 2017 at 16:42
  • I'd say yes, as most (if not all) people would understand what you mean by the context. Dec 7, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    Also, to note, most non-pedantic people will accept "can" as well as "may". It's become very common parlance to use them interchangeably. Dec 7, 2017 at 17:36
  • "round" is a word in its own right.
    – psmears
    Feb 26, 2018 at 15:55

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