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The Preposition 'AT'
In English, prepositions are used to describe how nouns and verbs are related in terms of direction, time, position, location, and/or some other factor. Prepositions can be a great source of challenge for English-learners because each preposition often has different meanings, and some meanings do not make sense!
Here is a brief summary of some of the common and peculiar (or strange) uses of one of the most common prepositions: at. Some of the uses do not make sense! You might be wondering or asking why the prepositions are used in this way. Well, even though there might be an explanation for some of the strange usages, most native English-speakers do not know the origin or meaning of theses weird prepositional uses...and they most likely don't care; they just know how and when to say them correctly!
'At' is used to show where something is and tells about it's location.
However, it does NOT tell if something or someone is inside a building, for example, a shopping mall, supermarket, store, etc.
- ...at the shopping mall, at the beach, at the festival
- ...at home, at work
(In this sentence, 'at' tells what Tom's location is, but it does NOT tell us if Tom in in front of the mall doors or if he is inside the mall)
But, when used with the words 'home' and 'work', 'at' DOES tell us that something or someone is inside the work building or home.
Martin is at work from 9am to 5pm.
She's at home right now, so let's go and visit her.
'At' is also used to tell us that something happens when it is dark outside (night-time):
- ...at night (but, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening)
'At' is also used for the intersection of two streets, but NOT for one street
- ...at an intersection
Now, we can use all the meanings all together!
On Thursday afternoon, we saw our friends at the beach at Arbutus St. and Cornwall Ave., and then made plans to meet them at the movies at night.