I'm editing a book, and the author wrote the following sentence (emphasis added):

If she walked straight past the next six stands, then turned the corner at her right, then turned again, and then passed a couple of houses (made of carved‐out rock), she’d reach her destination.

The writer intends to refer to literal movement, but I'm not sure if turned the corner is a valid way to reference physical movement. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, turn the corner means "to get past the most difficult area or period in something and begin to improve." I've looked in other dictionaries as well, including Dictionary.com, Collins Dictionary, and even Wiktionary, but none of them list the literal meaning.

Is there a definition of turn the corner that involves literal, physical movement as used when giving/receiving directions? If so, what does it mean?

  • 3
    The meaning of making a turn at a corner is not a set expression, but simple English. Dictionaries cannot specify how regular words go together when used in their regular fashion: Red apple will not be defined because it's just an apple of that color. Jul 6, 2022 at 18:31
  • In this case, the writer means, turned [a]round the corner.
    – Justin
    Jul 6, 2022 at 18:32
  • @YosefBaskin What's confusing to me is that turn appears to be used in a transitive sense but refers to the movement of the one turning. However, maybe that is a valid definition of turn.
    – The Editor
    Jul 6, 2022 at 18:34
  • 1
    There are over 1 000 000 Google hits for "turned the corner and found" (I've not checked for false positives) and only a handful for what I'd choose, "turned round the corner and found". The metaphor probably never has 'round'. // 'Turn/ed the corner' is IMO best left as an idiom, with idiosyncratic grammar. 'Turn [the] X' perhaps doesn't occur with other X's (You could stick a 'proverbial' in). Jul 6, 2022 at 18:36
  • 1
    Merriam-Webster has under "turn": "to bend a course around or about" example: "turned the corner at full speed".
    – Stuart F
    Jul 6, 2022 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


Here, turn the corner literally refers to turning [a]round the corner. The verb turn means "to bend a course around or about: ROUND", so the preposition "[a]round" is redundant in "turn [a]round the corner". Hence, turn the corner is the more common form. Compare "pass the statue" (pass by the statue) or "ride a horse" (ride on a horse). So turn the corner doesn't necessarily only have to have a figurative meaning.

Further reading: Cognitive Space and Linguistic Case: Semantic and Syntactic Categories in English by Izchak M. Schlesinger (see the Deletion of prepositions section).


I would say, yes there is such a non-figurative use of "turn the corner".
Since it is non-figurative, you do not need a separate dictionary listing, merely use the dictionary listings of "turn" and "corner".


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