one of the meanings of "to steer" from collinsdictionary.com:

to steer - to direct the course of; guide:
I can steer you to the best restaurant in town.

Despite the definition given, the meaning of "steer" in this sentence is still unclear to me.

my variant (more convenient to me for analysis):
(1) John steered Mary to the restaurant.

What can (1) mean:
(1a) John helped Mary to get to the restaurant (e.g. drove her there) and stayed there together with her.
(1b) John helped Mary to get to the restaurant (e.g. drove her there) but himself might not go there (i.e. we don't know whether he stayed there with her or immediately went away).
(1c) John told Mary to go to the restaurant but himself did not go there together with her. For example, John and Mary were home, John told her to go to the restaurant, Mary went there, John remained home.
something else?

  • 1
    helped does not need to. steer is guide literally by taking someone by the arm and leading them to a place (often used also inside places: He steered her to the bar.)**OR** by just explaining how to go somewhere. That is what is meant in your context there.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 30 at 17:46
  • @Lambie You wrote: "to steer is to guide literally by taking someone by the arm and leading them to a place". Hence, my suggestion that John could drive Mary to the restaurant is wrong. Is it a right conclusion?
    – Loviii
    Commented Mar 30 at 19:41
  • 2
    To 'steer' someone does not necessarily ('literally') mean to guide by taking the arm. I can steer you to a restaurant by e.g. telling you, over the phone, how to get there, or walking/riding next to you and saying 'take the next left, turn right at the end (etc). I can steer you towards a choice of restaurant by mentioning its good points compared to other possible choices. Commented Mar 30 at 19:50
  • 1
    No, steer does not mean drive. They steered us to the restaurant: told us how to go there. Suggested we go there. It's a metaphor: steer a boat or steer a car.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 30 at 19:54
  • 3
    If I gave Mary a ride in my car to the restaurant, I would definitely NOT say 'I steered Mary to the restaurant', and I'd think it a strange thing to say. Commented Mar 30 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


It means John made Mary go to the restaurant, his position relative to her doesn't matter

What does matter, is the nuance of the figurative "steer". There are many words we can choose to describe "John caused Mary to do something". "Steer" is used when:

  1. It's about location, both literally and figuratively (same way you'd use "arrive" figuratively)
  2. John has an ulterior motive
  3. Mary does not feel like she's being forced to do it against her will

if condition 1 is not satisfied, you'd probably pick "guided"

if condition 2 is not satisfied, you'd probably use "recommended"

if condition 3 is not satisfied, you'd probably use "coerced" or "lured

The method of transport, or where John is relative to Mary doesn't matter


Without any additional context, I would infer the meaning in 1c for your sentence, but any of the three could be correct. Your provided definition is the right one for this situation. For me, the connotation is that John suggested or caused Mary to choose the restaurant over other options, but again it's a weak inference without something more.

  • Yes. I steered Mary towards the New Delhi Curry House by mentioning that the Istanbul Kebab Grill had been prosecuted after 50 customers had to go to hospital the previous month. Commented Mar 30 at 19:52
  • When you're taking Mary by car to the restaurant you're not steering Mary.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 31 at 10:47

When used in the sense of "to guide by giving a recommendation and/or directions; to guide by way of education" the verb steer is being used figuratively. The literal meaning is "to pilot a craft or to drive a vehicle (such that it remains under the pilot or driver's control)".

I can steer you to a couple of good lawyers who can help you with that.

The goal of the school is to steer young minds in the right direction.

  • No, the literally meaning is not drive a vehicle or pilot a craft. The literal meaning is to have your hands on a steering wheel and move the vehicle or craft one way or the other.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 31 at 13:30
  • @Lambie Hands on wheel are not an essential aspect of steering.You're misguided. Also, I think some brain fart has caused you to say "the literally meaning".
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 31 at 13:43
  • "The literal meaning [of steer] is "to pilot a craft or to drive a vehicle". No, it isn't. My father let me steer the car by sitting on his lap but he controlled the pedals.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 31 at 14:29
  • The general literal meaning is "to control the course of something using the physical means it provides" (whether that be a steering wheel, a rudder, the handle of a shopping cart at the supermarket, or even something attached to an elephant's ears); a particular (and very familiar) way of steering is "hands on steering-wheel". The gist of my answer is that when the "steering" is not via physical means the usage is figurative.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 31 at 15:44
  • You don't seem to own up to your own words, do you? "The literal meaning is "to pilot a craft or to drive a vehicle (such that it remains under the pilot or driver's control)" "steering" is not driving per se. That last sentence is me speaking.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 31 at 16:05

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