Brief mention: where … at

Mar Rojo recently posted this exchange to the Facebook group The British Grammar Nazis:

A (on the phone): Where are you at?
B: I’m in the car.
A: No, I mean where are you at?
B: Ah, I’m on the M62, near junction 7.

An invented conversation, I believe, but one intended to show that the at can have a use. In this case, it picks out a specific location, as I suggested in a 2012 posting:

My impression is that where … at is more likely to be used expressions referring to specific locations than to broader locations. But I don’t use the construction myself, so my impressions aren’t reliable and need to be checked out.

In a Language Log posting that year, Mark Liberman suggested another difference, having possibly to do with figurative vs. literal uses; even speakers who don’t use where … at literally (for physical location) often use the construction figuratively, in things like “where medicine is at these days”.

(If you’re inclined to comment on this posting, please read Mark’s and my postings first — and avoid reference to the red herring of stranded prepositions (“sentences ending in prepositions”, as it’s often put).)

 

 

4 Responses to “Brief mention: where … at”

  1. Mar Rojo Says:

    Thanks for the mention. Things were tough over at British Grammar Nazis. But then again, what else could one expect from that bunch?

  2. Tom Barrrington Says:

    This usage is very common in the US, among a very broad range of speakers, probably because its utility is quite obvious, and it gets to the point with a minimum of words.

  3. Mar Rojo Says:

    Maybe even more likely:

    A (on the phone): Where are you?
    B: I’m driving.
    A: Yes, yes, but I mean where are you at?
    B: Ah, I’m at junction 7, near Northampton.

  4. Mar Rojo Says:

    OR:

    A (on the phone): Where are you?
    B: On the motorway.
    A: Yes, yes, but I mean where are you at?
    B: Ah, I’m at junction 7, near Northampton.

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