Hello everyone.

I saw some people saying "At what are you looking?" is a grammatically correct question but I am really unsure about it.

Because the Cambridge dictionary call "look at" a prepositional verb and its definition says:

Prepositional verbs have two parts: a verb and a preposition which cannot be separated from each other:

So if we can not separate a verb from its preposition, how can we ask a question by putting its preposition at the beginning? I think there is something wrong.

-> What are you looking at? is okay. Because we didn't separate them. They are still together.

But putting it at the beginning is breaking the definition of Cambridge.

Additionally, it is not just about "look at". It's the same for every prepositional verb.

-> After whom are you looking?(I think it is wrong. Who are you looking after? is correct.

-> For what are you looking?(The same situation again. What are you looking for? is correct)

-> To what are you listening? or What are you listening to?

So I think that you understood my problem.

What do you think?


JawelWhat do you think?

Cambridge has been clumsy in their phrasing of the definition.

After they say you can't separate the verb from the preposition, they say

Some prepositional verbs take a direct object after the verb followed by the prepositional phrase.

This is followed by examples that separate the verb from the preposition, like this one, illustrating the prepositional verb "remind of", where "remind" is separated from "of".

Hannah reminds me of a girlfriend of mine.

Plus, all their examples are of declarative sentences. They say nothing about how these constructions are transformed when forming questions.

In short, you can't take their remark seriously that the verb and preposition can't be separated. That applies only sometimes.



"At what are you looking?" is grammatical, but people don't talk like this today. You'd say: "What are you looking at?"

Similarly, "After whom are you looking?/For what are you looking?/To what are you listening?", are technically correct grammatically, but people don't talk like this. You'd say: "Whom are you looking after?/What are you looking for?/What are you listening to?"

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The preposition (PRE-position) usually goes BEFORE the subject. With "at what are you looking?", "what" is the subject. "At" would go before it as, it is the preposition. In "look at [this/that]", the same rule is still being applied. "At" is the preposition; "This" is the subject. Grammatically, the preposition SHOULD come before the subject. In both examples, it does. The way we speak now is the equivalent of asking, "you're feeling how?". "How" is a preposition and, respectfully, it is always put first. It is no different with "at". "It does not matter how (prep) it (sub) is done (verb)."

At(prep) what(sub) are you looking?

Look at(prep) this(sub).

The thing to remember is, we generally speak colloquially and, write grammatically. It's more efficient to talk colloquially and easier to be understood when read grammatically.

anonymousWith "at what are you looking?", "what" is the subject. object.

The noun after a preposition is called its object: the object of the preposition. Not the subject.


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