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I am wondering what "from the school, deep into the grounds" means in the following sentences:

‘Survival?’ Hannah turns to him.

‘This game we used to play at school,’ Femi explains.

Duncan’s wife Georgina chips in: ‘Oh God. Duncan’s told me stories about it. Really awful stuff. He told me about boys being taken out of their beds at night, left in the middle of nowhere—’

‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ Femi says. ‘They’d kidnap a younger boy from his bed and take him as far as they could away from the school, deep into the grounds.’

‘And we’re talking big grounds,’ Angus says. ‘And the middle of nowhere. Pitch-black. No light from anything.’

‘It sounds barbaric,’ Hannah says, her eyes wide.

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 15

The speakers are at the rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding between Jules and Will. The ushers all went to the same public school as Will, and they are now remembering the game they used to play at school, which is called "Survival." (The narrator here is Johnno.)

I looked "grounds" up and found that it means the ground surrounding the school, i.e., the land inside the fence of the school, but I am confused because they took younger boys "from the school" and "deep into the grounds."

I guess I am confused because I am thinking that "grounds" are included in the "school."

Would it be perhaps right to understand that they took the younger boy to a place far "from the school building itself" all the way to the place "deep into the land that the school owns"...? Or, would that perhaps mean they took the boy out of the school entirely and hid the boy somewhere in a nearby region...?

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"Grounds" is a term used to refer to any piece of land, either owned by someone or belonging to an organisation. It is often used to refer to a piece of land associated with a building, for example the 'school grounds' would be the land on which a school sits and any that surrounds it.

"Away from the school, deep into the grounds" could mean either:

  1. Completely off the school premises and into some other grounds, perhaps previously referred to by the writer.

Or, more likely:

  1. Away from the school buildings, and into the furthest reaches of the grounds that surround the school.

The wider context ought to make this clear.

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    It does. "And we're talking big grounds" surely implies that the school was set in a large area of landscaped ground. Apr 19 at 10:35
  • @KateBunting I've said that is the most likely given the quotation, but it isn't beyond doubt. Also, I'd like my answer to have a wider application for future readers.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 19 at 10:37
  • @KateBunting On re-reading, something that could cast some doubt on the grounds being part of the school is that they are "in the middle of nowhere". If they are part of the school grounds, they aren't "nowhere", and technically they must be on the edge of the place, not the middle. I suspect its just childish language suited to the context of the book, but still, there's room for doubt.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 19 at 10:39
  • I would interpret 'the middle of nowhere' as meaning in shrubbery or woodland, well away from any paths or lights. Apr 19 at 10:45
  • Dear everyone, thank you very much for the explanations. As for the first option, I am afraid there is no mention regarding other grounds in particular. But I really agree that, if they are within the school premises, it isn't the middle of nowhere. But then this "nowhere" could be their unspecific mentioning as to how the place in the school grounds felt like "nowhere", being so dark and kidnapped from their beds all of a sudden, as you suggest. I sincerely appreciate your help. :) Apr 20 at 13:31

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