“Steer clear” is one of these expressions when it’s hard to get the meaning simply by guessing.
I think I first encountered it in the Friends TV Series and didn’t get the meaning even out of the context.
It was in the scene when Ross advises Rachel “not to look too terrific” at her meeting with her ex-fiancé with who she recently broke up.
Here’s the extract of their dialogue:
Rachel: So, got any advice? Y’know, as someone who’s recently been dumped?
Ross: Well, you may wanna steer clear of the word ‘dumped’. Chances are he’s gonna be this, this broken shell of a man, y’know, so you should try not to look too terrific, I know it’ll be hard.
Here’s the scene (start from 2:16)
So, steer clear of something actually means to avoid something unpleasant or dangerous.
In this case, Ross suggests Rachel try not to use the word “dumped” in the conversation with a man she abandoned.
Here are more examples:
Dad warned us to steer clear of Dr. Smith and his poor advice. (harm)
Tourists are advised to steer clear of the area. (danger)
Steering clear of fatty food is always a good choice.
The meaning of steer clear makes more sense if we look at the verb “steer”.
Steer means to control the direction of a vehicle.
For instance, Jack steered while Ken gave directions.
You can also steer or guide a person to move in a certain direction.
He took her arm to steer her towards the door.
So now “steer clear of” makes more sense. You want to clear your way of any unpleasant or dangerous things.
There’s also an expression “stay clear of” that means exactly the same as “steer clear”.
How to pronounce steer
Here are more examples of “steer” and “steer clear” for you:
…normally these types are to steer towards books.
You can steer clear of it, or you can join it, depending on your taste in travel.
…steer away from the summer. It’s very hot and very crowded in the Mediterranean
I would really steer you toward that or you can get the shorter version in my book which distills it.
So I certainly would steer clear of giving specific dietary advice to anyone.
If you’d like, I would love to just steer you in a slightly different direction.
so we can use them to steer these objects around
How do you steer a man you have never met into a conversation about what might have motivated his crime…
… steer toward where all the people are, where the audience is, where the eyeballs are.
They have a lot of information and they can steer you to things on that.
You can listen and practice to all these sentences and more here.
Want to get bite-size vocabulary explanations to your email? Sign up here.