DefinitionenIn addition to the uses shown below, at is used after some verbs, nouns, and adjectives to introduce extra information. At is also used in phrasal verbs such as 'keep on at' and 'play at'.
1. preposition You use at to indicate the place or event where something happens or is situated. ⇒ We had dinner at a restaurant in Attleborough. ⇒ He will be at the airport to meet her. ⇒ I didn't like being alone at home. ⇒ Hamstrings are supporting muscles at the back of the thigh. ⇒ The announcement was made at a news conference in Peking. 2. preposition If someone is at school or college, or at a particular school or college, they go there regularly to study. ⇒ He was shy and nervous as a boy, and unhappy at school. ⇒ It was at university that he first encountered Hopkins. ⇒ I majored in psychology at Hunter College. 3. preposition If you are at something such as a table, a door, or someone's side, you are next to it or them. ⇒ An assistant sat typing away at a table beside him. ⇒ Graham was already at the door. ⇒ At his side was a beautiful young woman. ⇒ He gave the girl at the desk the message. 4. preposition When you are describing where someone or something is, you can say that they are at a certain distance. You can also say that one thing is at an angle in relation to another thing. ⇒ The two journalists followed at a discreet distance. ⇒ The tree was leaning at a low angle from the ground. 5. preposition If something happens at a particular time, that is the time when it happens or begins to happen. ⇒ The funeral will be carried out this afternoon at 3.00. ⇒ He only sees her at Christmas and Easter. 6. preposition
If you do something at a particular age, you do it when you are that age. ⇒ Blake emigrated to Australia with his family at 13. ⇒ Mary Martin has died at her home in California at the age of seventy-six.
7. preposition You use at to express a rate, frequency, level, or price. ⇒ I drove back down the highway at normal speed. ⇒ Check the oil at regular intervals, and have the car serviced regularly. ⇒ The submarine lies at a depth of 6,000 feet in the Barents Sea. ⇒ ...custom-designed rugs at $16 to $100 a sq ft. 8. preposition You use at before a number or amount to indicate a measurement. ⇒ Weighing in at eighty tons, the B-19 was easily the largest and most sophisticated warplane in the world. ⇒ ...as unemployment stays pegged at three million. 9. preposition If you look at someone or something, you look towards them. If you direct an object or a comment at someone, you direct it towards them. ⇒ He looked at Michael and laughed. ⇒ The crowds became violent and threw petrol bombs at the police. ⇒ A couple of people started shouting abuse at them as they walked past a pub. 10. preposition You can use at after verbs such as 'smile' or 'wave' and before nouns referring to people to indicate that you have put on an expression or made a gesture which someone is meant to see or understand. ⇒ She opened the door and stood there, frowning at me. ⇒ We waved at the staff to try to get the bill. 11. preposition If you point or gesture at something, you move your arm or head in its direction so that it will be noticed by someone you are with. ⇒ He pointed at the empty bottle and the waitress quickly replaced it. ⇒ He gestured at the shelves. 'I've bought many books from him.' 12. preposition If you are working at something, you are dealing with it. If you are aiming at something, you are trying to achieve it. ⇒ She has worked hard at her marriage. ⇒ ...a $1.04m grant aimed at improving student performance on placement examinations. 13. preposition If something is done at someone's invitation or request, it is done as a result of it. ⇒ She left the light on in the bathroom at his request. ⇒ I visited Japan in 1987 at the invitation of the Foreign Minister. 14. preposition
You use at to say that someone or something is in a particular state or condition. ⇒ I am afraid we are not at liberty to disclose that information. ⇒ Their countries had been at war for nearly six weeks.
15. preposition You use at before a possessive pronoun and a superlative adjective to say that someone or something has more of a particular quality than at any other time. ⇒ He was at his happiest whilst playing cricket. ⇒ Howards End is old fashioned film-making at its best. 16. preposition
You use at to say how something is being done. ⇒ Three people were killed by shots fired at random from a minibus. ⇒ Mr Martin was taken out of his car at gunpoint.
You use at to show that someone is doing something repeatedly. ⇒ She lowered the handkerchief which she had kept dabbing at her eyes. ⇒ Miss Melville took a cookie and nibbled at it.
18. preposition You use at to indicate an activity or task when saying how well someone does it. ⇒ I'm good at my work. ⇒ Robin is an expert at cheesemaking. ⇒ She excels at sport. 19. preposition You use at to indicate what someone is reacting to. ⇒ Eleanor was annoyed at having had to wait so long for him. ⇒ The British team did not disguise their delight at their success. ⇒ Six months ago she would have laughed at the idea.
COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © Harper Collins Publishers