- about1. as a preposition.In the meaning ‘roughly, approximately’ (eg. It took about ten minutes, about is the usual BrE word; around is also used, and is much more common in AmE. Round about is more informal, and is largely confined to BrE.2. meaning ‘concerning’.In this meaning, about is either a preposition or a conjunction (followed by which, how, etc.): (preposition) The quarrels were about money / (conjunction) There was a great deal of discussion about which versions should be used. Since the 1930s, the phrase to be about (something) has developed a special meaning ‘to be primarily concerned with’ and even ‘to have as its aim’, as in
• Love and war were about winning, not fair play —A. Price, 1982.When precision is important, it is better to use a less ambiguous phrase, e.g. Love and war had winning as their purpose, and did not involve fair play.The phrase what it's all about is a cliché, and should be restricted to less formal contexts:
• They like the feeling that they have had to fight other men for possession. That is what it is all about, really. —Anita Brookner, 1984.3. used instead of of.About is tending to replace of in uses such as We're more aware about it / The Vietnamese are disdainful about Chinese cooking / The issue about how such things are monitored.4. be about to.In affirmative contexts, to be about to denotes intention: I am about to go shopping. A more idiomatic negative use, not about to (do something), should only be used informally:
• I'm not about to foist something on the general public just for the sake of releasing something —Record Mirror, 1982.In more formal usage, it is better to use one of several alternatives such as do not intend to (or, more emphatically, have no intention of), am not likely to, etc.
Modern English usage. 2014.