This context comes from the novel "The Shining" by Stephen King

"You could have a police car in five minutes and a fire truck in level less time than that, because the fire station was only three blocks away and one block over."

I know what "a block away" means.

A block is:

  • b. A segment of a street bounded by consecutive cross streets and including its buildings and inhabitants.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

it's basically one side of:

a. A usually rectangular section of a city or town bounded on each side by consecutive streets. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

So "one block away" would mean on one of those segments of the street which is divided by a cross street once in any of the two directions. Two blocks away would mean that we have to cross(the cross street) twice. But what does "block over" mean? I suspect that it means that in contrast to "a block away" where we travel along the street(without taking turns) we are supposed to turn(either left or right), although I can't find any definitions that would support that theory.

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2 Answers 2


This sentence is not great semantically.

It would be better phrased as "three blocks down and one block over", meaning "three blocks in one direction, and then one block in an orthogonal direction to the first".

That might clear it up enough for you, but just in case, let's also be precise about "three blocks away" and "a block over"

"Three blocks away" means three blocks total distance from some point of reference. This can mean Euclidean linear distance ("as the crow flies"), or taxicab distance. This is where the original sentence is wrong, because three blocks is clearly not the total distance by either measure.

In this context, "a block over" means one block in an orthogonal direction to some reference direction. It can also mean one block away from some reference point, but the context makes clear that's not the case here.

  • So what I get from this is that "three blocks down" means "away only in the linear direction" whereas "three blocks away" can also on top off that mean three blocks away in a zigzagging pattern"? Just as a blue line in the picture I added to the bottom of the post? Or maybe it can follow some other patter as well? Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 20:26
  • @StaticBounce Close. You're right about "three blocks down". "Three blocks away" can mean any of the four coloured lines in that picture. The green line would represent roughly "8.5 blocks away" (as the crow flies), and the other three lines would represent "12 blocks away" (taxicab distance).
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 22:10

gotube's answer is technically/pedantically correct. And King's use of language is very sloppy.

However, a natural speaker would recognise that "and one block over" means that "three blocks away" means "three blocks up/down", not "three blocks total"

It's a matter of context.

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