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I would like to know the difference between "to be in a country/state/city/place" and "to be around a country/state/city/place."

Examples:

  1. Jim had been in Washington for years, and knew all the right people.
  2. Jim had been around Washington for years, and knew all the right people.

I wonder if sentence 2 means Jim had been in "each part of" or "a lot of parts of" or "more than one part of" Washington.

My confusion is because of the combination of to be + around. It is true that dictionaries say that around can mean "here and there", "moving to different parts or areas", etc. In my mind, I just think that is okay and I understand when it comes to motion/movement verbs. But what about when that's not the case? As with the verb to be. Because as far as I know, to be doesn't express movement. For that reason, I chose the meaning "in or to many parts of or all directions" and used it in my interpretation of the meaning of sentence 2.

As to the form "to be in a place" as in I had been in Washington, I would understand it as I had been located in Washington. That was my location. Now when the form to be around a place shows up, since around means in many parts of, I would think I had been around Washington could mean I had been in many parts of Washington. Besides around can mean "to be present in a place", so according to that, sentence 2 could also mean something like I had been in Washington.

The dictionaries I consulted were MacMillan and Cambridge.

What do you think each sentence expresses/conveys?

I guess "to be in country/state/city" implies a greater knowleadge and a greater presence of time than "to be around country/state/city". It would be very helpful if someone could clarify what the form "to be around a country/state/city" really expresses in that specific context.

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    Please tell us what research you have done to solve your problem. Have you tried a dictionary? What did you find? Have you tried looking up similar phrases in google? What did you find? Have you tried google books or google news? Also, tell us which you think is correct, and why. Without "research effort" this question is likely to get closed. See Please, everyone … details. Please!. – AIQ May 6 '20 at 1:41
  • Please don't treat us, to us English learners, as if we were like you, (native) English speakers. Don't expect us to understand and perceive things in the way you do, especially when we are learning. Dictionaries, textbooks, and teachers don't teach or explain things like those. Do you know any book or dictionary that teaches things like those? – Jordi The Warrior May 6 '20 at 19:46
  • Sentence 1 is understandable until sentence 2 shows up. If I thought of the form to be in a place as in I was in Washington, I would understand I was located in Washington. That was my location. Now when the form to be around a place shows up, since around means in many parts of, I would think I was around Washington could mean I was in many parts of Washington. Besides around can mean be present in a place, so according to that, sentence 2 could me I was in Washington. – Jordi The Warrior May 6 '20 at 19:46
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    I easily found a 4 yr old discussion of "in vs around" by Googling that exact phrase. Which basically explained in detail the exact same thing as an answer was provided here. So I understand the contention about lack of effort shown that an answer was searched for. – G Warner May 6 '20 at 22:49
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    Calm down. @AIQ is trying to help you and he's right. Prepositions are difficult; we get it. But it is also an extremely common confusion people ask about. A little more research and details won't hurt. The stuff you said in the comments is a good start. Why don't you add it to your question and see if people react more positively and give more helpful answers? – Eddie Kal May 6 '20 at 22:59
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These sentences do not mean the same thing to me. There is a different nuance with regards to whether Jim has been in the city for years or whether he has simply been around the city for years. I will comment separately on each sentence.

1. Jim had been in Washington for years, and knew all the right people.

The sentence tells me Jim has lived and worked in Washington for years so that he got to know a lot of people who were helpful in making the contacts for him that needed to be made.

2. Jim had been around Washington for years, and knew all the right people.

It is less likely that Jim knew all the right people if he was only "around Washington."

To me, being around Washington means he was in the area, maybe not necessarily inside the city, and probably did not live or work there. Maybe he went on business trips a few times a year, meeting here and there, wherever various parties planned to meet. Most of them probably travelled from out of town so that Washington was more or less a central meeting place.

Being around Washington certainly does not mean that Jim had been in "each part of" the city. His involvement would be more casual.

I am not sure why "in" is more specific than "around" for this case but that is how the language seems to have developed.

Someone suggested this question be closed unless it shows more effort at research. I am not sure how one can research this kind of thing. Anyway, this is how I see these two sentences.

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  • I learned a grade school exercise to make understanding prepositions much easier. Use a pencil, or even your hand as the object and think about the location named with the target word. In your hand, around your hand, under, over etc.. – G Warner May 6 '20 at 23:15
  • Also asking that people consider deleting their comments that do not add to the discussion of the subject of the question. And that the asker consider editing their question to show their search still had them confused. – G Warner May 6 '20 at 23:24
  • Hi Sarah, I didn't suggest that the question be closed. I merely said that it is likely to be closed [maybe by others] if research effort was not shown. There is a difference between the two. You wrote "unless it shows more effort at research" in your answer. That is wrong - at the time I had written the comment, there was no research effort shown in the OP (more would make sense if there was some to begin with). If the OP had made even a simple reference to looking up those prepositions in the dictionary, I would not have written that comment. – AIQ May 6 '20 at 23:28
  • Here is a simple research I did that is worth mentioning in the question. It would have told us that OP had at least tried something. Collins says If you move around a place, you travel through it, going to most of its parts. Merriam-Webster says (3a) here and there: from one place to another // "She travels around on business." and (1d) NEAR // "lives around Chicago." Lexico says (2) In or to many places throughout (a community or locality) // "cycling around the village" // "a number of large depots around the country". These are relevant, even if marginally. – AIQ May 7 '20 at 0:06

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