I've met a sentence like this in a technical book.

It centers around the concept of [some concept].

I would simply use:

It is based on the concept of [some concept].

I would like to understand the possible reasons for this choice of words.

The questions:

  1. Are both variants are semantically equal?
  2. Is the first variant more "rich", as it uses a phrasal verb centers around?
  3. Is the first variant more GB-English (as opposed to US-English), as centre around is more of a French-influenced word?
  • 2
    The center of a, say, theory is not the same with its basis.
    – fev
    Nov 12, 2022 at 22:27
  • 1
    Why do you believe that "center" is "more of a French-influenced word" than "base"? And why do you believe that BrE is more likely to use French-influenced words than AmE? Nov 12, 2022 at 22:45
  • 3
    Both are metaphors. Ideas are not physical, so they don't have bases or centers. On the other hand, we have to use metaphors to talk about them, because thought is vague. In one metaphor, gravity keeps the ideas together, stacked on a bottom/base, which is somehow important. In the other metaphor, the ideas are physically arrayed in a circle instead of vertically. Each one is the same distance from the center, instead of being stacked. Which image you choose determines what you want to say. Nov 12, 2022 at 23:17
  • 1
    @John Why don't you make this the answer? Sounds complete.
    – Elliot
    Nov 12, 2022 at 23:35
  • 1
    Thanks, by the way, for not saying based off of. Nov 13, 2022 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


This is impossible to answer without a concrete instance as the focus of something and its basis are not the same.

In addition, saying something “centres around something” is absurd. If it contains something it surrounds one would use “encompass” rather than “centre”. Otherwise, use “centres on”, but I much prefer “focus”.

  • I think if X focuses on Y, that more or less forces the implication that the creators of X were familiar with Y during the production process. But it's perfectly possible to say X centres on Y even if the creators of Y have no direct knowledge of X. Nov 13, 2022 at 17:00

Answer without details

  1. No, those expressions are not even variants of one another.

  2. Neither is richer than the other but each is consecrated to a unique idea, and so question # 2 is not really justified.

  3. In view of the answers to the first two questions, #3 is irrelevant.

Explanation for the answers above

What constitutes a basis for something can be said in other words to provide a starting point, a foundation upon which subsequent building can rest; so if X is based on the concept of Y, going down the chain of relationships one should get back always to the basis, but the nature of what is not the basis may not remind one very much of the basis (for instance). On the contrary what centers on something tends to remind one in all its aspects of this central element, tends to have a direct connection to it.

(SOED) centre: Be situated (as) on a fixed centre; have its center or be concentrated in, (up)on, around;
W. SANSOM That strange figure around whom this account properly centers.

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