+0
Hello,

I would like to know if there is a difference in meaning and if it´s possible to say all those sentences.

1) The ball is at the box. The bookcase/wardrobe is at the wall.

2) The ball is next to/by/beside the box. The bookcase/wardrobe is next to/beside/by the wall.

3) The church is by the river/at/next to/beside the river.

Thank you for your answers Mowgli
+1
The prepositions "at", "by", "beside", and "next to" are all prepositions of location, and all relate to nearness. The choice often depends on the words that follow and the exact spatial pattern you are trying to describe.

"next to" is the most general-purpose of the group. It indicates that things or people are quite close laterally -- from right to left. Any person or thing can be next to just about any other person or thing. "next to" is not generally used for vertical spatial patterns.

The church is next to the hospital.
The fork is next to the knife.
John is next to Mary.
The shelves are next to the wall.

*The door is next to the floor. (* indicates something anomalous. Here, the spatial relation is vertical.)

"beside" is almost the same as "next to", but is somewhat higher in register, in my opinion. I rarely use the word "beside", preferring "next to". Also, "beside" is awkward with things that have no obvious sides, like walls.

The church is beside the hospital.
The fork is beside the knife.
John is beside Mary.
?The shelves are beside the wall.
*The lamp is beside the ceiling.

"by" also indicates nearness, but in a much more vague way. Here, the objects seem not to be quite as near as when we say "next to" or "beside".

The church is by the hospital.
The fork is by the knife.
John is by Mary.
The shelves are by the wall.
*The lamp is by the ceiling.

"at" is used in several ways. It is used to specify the location of a large object like a building in terms of the landscape.

The hospital is at the corner.
The church is at the intersection.

With "the beginning of" and "the end of":

John is at the beginning of the line.
The bank is at the end of the street.

"at" is also used when a person is located at an institution and/or in engaged in some activity.

John is at school / at work.
The children are at play.
I was at the bank when you called.
They are at the restaurant.
I'll meet you at the hotel.

"at" is not used to say that some small object is near some other small object.

*The fork is at the knife.
*The pencil is at the watch.
*The chair is at the refrigerator.

I hope that helps.
CJ
+0
1) The ball is at the box. (x)
The ball is in the box.(o)
The ball is on the box. (o)
"At" in the locative phrase usually means "at a point".
"On X" is "touched to the surface of X".

2) The bookcase is at the wall. (x)
The bookcase is on the wall.(o)
The bookcase is against the wall. (o)
"Against X" is "facing X"

2) The ball is next to the box. (o)
The ball is by the box. (o)
The ball is beside the box. (o)

3) The church is on the river. (o)
The church is by the river. (o)
The church is next to the river. (o)
The church is at the river. (x).
The church is beside the river. (?)
I wouldn't use "beside" in this case.

paco
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Comments  
1-- all are very odd to me.
2-- all seem fine, but large items are usually against the wall; long items are along the wall.
3-- all seem fine.

My answers depend, of course, on the accuracy of the relative locations of the items.
 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
 paco2004's reply was promoted to an answer.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Hi,

if I understand your signs well /X/, you mean that "the ball is at the box" is not correct?

However, that´s a sentence I´ve found in a textbook. The author is probably not a native speaker.

Thank you Mowgli
To reiterate what I said at the beginning, I find at the box odd, or perhaps I should say, an uncommon means of locating the ball. As things get bigger and farther away, it is more reasonable for them to become a point location: I therefore find at the wall and then at the river increasingly reasonable, with Pa's boat is down at the river quite natural.

It also seems evident from CJ's and Paco's comments that there are both overlap in and individual differences of opinion about natural use.

"at" is not used to say that some small object is near some other small object.


*The fork is at the knife.

*The pencil is at the watch.

*The chair is at the refrigerator.

I'm curious about why we cannot use "at" to say that some small object near some other small object.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?