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I'm staring at a computer screen, looking at the edges of the glass. I want to say:

"I looked around the edges and the screen looked fine to me."

Is it correct? The phrase, "looked around the edges", I mean? Or should I say:

"I looked along the edges and the screen looked fine."

And is there a difference between the two? If so, what is the difference?

Another example would be if I have a book, and I ask someone to find a particular word on a particular page, and I gave them a hint:

"Look along the edge and you will find it."

Should I say:

"Look around the edge you will find it."

I think 'look along' sounds correct to me in this context (correct me if I am wrong). But 'look around' sounds correct to me in my first example sentence.

I'm trying to understand the subtle differences between the two: look around Vs look along.

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I wouldn't use either. Instead I would just say

I looked at the edges of the screen, and they look fine.

This suggests a detailed examination of that part of the screen.

Nevertheless, both "along" and "around" the edges are fine, but imply different actions. "Along" suggests you followed the line of the edge with your eyes around the entire perimeter of the screen. A similar example:

He walked along the edge of the park.

which suggests he followed the perimeter more or less exactly, without going too deeply into the park itself.

"Around" suggests you glanced at the edges in a more random pattern, without focusing too much on detail. Example:

The mechanic looked around the inside of the car's engine compartment, but didn't see anything that looked too damaged.

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  • Thanks for the detailed explanation. Makes sense to me now. So I can use 'around' to imply I had a quick look at/inside/... something? – π times e Jul 31 '19 at 17:34
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    @πtimes - The problem with using 'around' is that look around is a phrasal verb that already has a defined meaning. – J.R. Jul 31 '19 at 17:57
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If what I meant was

I looked near the edge of the doorway

I might say

I looked along the edge of the doorway

to imply that my looking was very near the edge.

I would not say

I looked around the edge of the doorway

because it might be interpreted to mean that I looked into the next room.

It is certainly true that "around" is frequently used as a synonym of "near," but if you want to avoid ambiguity, it is a usage that I recommend avoiding.

The rules about the usage of prepositions are few, riddled with exceptions, and largely arbitrary. My suggestion is to see how they are used by good writers and learn by example.

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