This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Jane in Taiwan about two similar prepositions. Here is the question:
Dear VOA, I’m writing to ask a question about the differences between “at the corner” and “on the corner.” Thanks for your help.
We are happy to help.
Corners can be found in many spaces and places, inside and out. There are corners on boxes, for example, as well as on tables, in rooms, in parks and on streets. There are even corners on a piece of paper.
To answer your question today, I will focus on streets. When we are talking about the corner of a street, both “on” and “at” are used in American English. Listen to these two examples of how they might be used:
She is waiting at the corner.
The man stands on the corner every morning.
When the names of the streets are not included, the more common choice for many Americans seems to be “on.”
Now, let’s suppose you wanted to be more specific. If you specify the streets where someone or something is located, or where something happens, the preposition “at” is common. Listen to these examples:
Let’s meet at the corner of Pike Street and East Broadway.
A bridge collapsed at the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Polk Street Northeast.
The word “on” would also be acceptable both examples. But in the second example, it could mean that a bridge above the street corner collapsed onto it.
However, in general, American English speakers use either preposition when discussing street corners. For many people, this is often just a matter of personal choice.
And that's Ask a Teacher for this week. I'm Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words in This Story
corner – n. a point where two lines, edges or sides meet; a place where two streets meet
focus – v. to direct one’s attention to something
specific – adj. relating to a particular person or situation
locate – v. to find the place or position of someone or something