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at or by? Options
Elmmosa
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 3:14:39 AM
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Joined: 8/17/2015
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Hello,
which preposition should I use in the following sentence?

When I looked out of the window, I saw a boy standing at/by the gate.

Thank you!
taurine
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 3:23:00 AM

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Location: South Dublin, Ireland
There is a movie, 'Enemy at the gate'.

In the result, if you use "at the gate" it means that, for example, you are going to enter the gate.


If you use "by the gate" it means that, for example, you are waiting next to the gate.


Sas? Nic. Sassnitz. Rug, ja? Rugen. Telemark in Harzgerode.
BobShilling
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 4:43:42 AM
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taurine wrote:
if you use "at the gate" it means that, for example, you are going to enter the gate.


Not Necessarily.
taurine
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 4:46:44 AM

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Location: South Dublin, Ireland
BobShilling wrote:
taurine wrote:
if you use "at the gate" it means that, for example, you are going to enter the gate.


Not Necessarily.


I did not state that, necessarily.

Sas? Nic. Sassnitz. Rug, ja? Rugen. Telemark in Harzgerode.
srirr
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 5:00:54 AM

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Joined: 12/29/2009
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Elmmosa wrote:
Hello,
which preposition should I use in the following sentence?

When I looked out of the window, I saw a boy standing at/by the gate.

Thank you!


Both are correct and can be used, but the connotation will be different.

When you say 'standing at the gate', it means the boy is just 'at' the gate and his intention is to cross from one side of the gate to the other side. He is perhaps waiting to enter or exit. Or may be he is waiting for his friend to come out. The sense is that his intention or next action is related to the gate.

When you say 'standing by the gate', it gives an impression that the boy is standing near the gate, perhaps very close to the gate. He has nothing to do with the gate. It is just a coincidence that there is a gate when he stood. But he is just standing. He may be waiting for a bus or something. Or perhaps he has stood there for a while thinking something or to ask the watchman about an address.

So, depending on the context, you can use either.


We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. ~ Swami Vivekanand
Wilmar (USA)
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 7:55:13 AM

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Joined: 6/4/2015
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Location: Vinton, Iowa, United States
This is nothing but splitting hairs. He's at the gate and standing by the gate mean the same thing. If there is more that the reader is supposed to understand, then there had better be more text giving essential information.
Romany
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 8:20:26 AM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

As you guys are learners it's understandable that you need to know if certain prepositions have different meanings in different contexts.

But there is a certain truth in what Wilmar says: native speakers don't pay all that much attention to conversational slips like whether to use 'at' or 'by'...because the context is what helps give the meaning. In conversation - rather than in a written sentence with no context - the listener is simply being alerted to the fact that there is someone hanging about near the gate.

They know whether there is a bus stop there that would explain the presence of someone outside: or whether living down a deserted lane in the middle of the country (for example)it would signal danger or something unusual if someone were hanging about by the gate.

Do you see what I mean?
Elmmosa
Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 3:08:50 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/17/2015
Posts: 104
Neurons: 2,171
Thank you all so much.
I got the difference between 'at' and 'by'. Your explanations are very clear and easy to understand.
I also unterstand, that native speakers often don't follow all the rules of grammar strictly when they are speaking, especially when the meaning is clear from the context.
Thanks again for your help! Have a wonderful day. :)
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