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When is it appropriate to use annoyed at? Can I say I'm annoyed at you or should it be annoyed with you? What about annoyed by?

I've read somewhere that annoyed with is for people and annoyed at is for the rest but I haven't been able to find a link to a supporting document/textbook.

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It seems to me that "by" is more commonly used for something that normally/always annoys, as opposed to something that is currently annoying: "I am annoyed by your loud music" means "when you play your music too loudly, I get annoyed", as opposed "I am annoyed at your loud music". It is not a hard and fast rule at all...substitute "get" for "am" in the above examples, for example. –  JeffSahol May 19 '11 at 18:35
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4 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I am annoyed by a specific behavior.

I am annoyed with the person who's doing it.

I am annoyed at a requirement.

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"Annoyed at" exists actually... –  Alenanno May 19 '11 at 16:50
    
@Alenanno: Such as? –  SLaks May 19 '11 at 17:02
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@SLaks: "he was annoyed at being woken up so early", taken from my NOAD. Or the third example on the OALD: "I bet she was annoyed at having to write it out again." –  Alenanno May 19 '11 at 17:07
    
Bravo for the edit; this now summarizes my feelings exactly. (Where's the +5 button when you need it?) –  Marthaª May 19 '11 at 17:22
    
+1: I would rarely say I'm being annoyed at your daughter, or I'm being annoyed with your daughter, although I might say I'm being annoyed by your daughter. So if somebody is doing something annoying, I am annoyed by them, although I might also be annoyed with them for doing it. –  Peter Shor May 19 '11 at 17:35
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There are several ways to use annoyed as an adjective and you can also use the verb to annoy. I think it helps to consider these forms separately.

First the adjective:

I am annoyed by elephants.
Elephants in general annoy me.

I am annoyed with my sister.
My sister has done something to annoy me.

I am annoyed at my sister.
(identical meaning to with)

And the verb:

She is annoying me by drumming.
by + gerund (action that annoys)

She is annoying me with her drum.
with + a noun (thing that annoys)

At is not used with the verb. In the BNC there are zero occurrences of annoyed (v.) at and 67 occurrences of annoyed (adj.) at.

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I perceive a definite difference in meaning between "annoyed with" and "annoyed by". –  Marthaª May 19 '11 at 17:00
    
As an aside, how did you generate that chart? –  emragins May 19 '11 at 17:03
    
@emragins, it looks like a Google nGrams chart to me. But I agree that it would be more useful to include a link to its source. –  Marthaª May 19 '11 at 17:13
    
@Martha: Yes it's a nGram Graph... By the way, I don't really agree on the fact that they're interchangeable. It may occur in some cases, I can't be sure of the opposite at the moment, but they don't sound as completely interchangeable. –  Alenanno May 19 '11 at 17:16
    
@Alennano: Oh, I agree. Like I said, I perceive a definite difference in meaning between "with" and "by", and on the rare occasion I use "at", it too means something slightly different than the other two choices. –  Marthaª May 19 '11 at 17:21
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In the second sentence there is the potential for two different meanings, when the words at and with are interchanged:

  1. He was annoyed at the children. – No ambiguity.

  2. He was annoyed with the children. – Ambiguous, because it is now unclear as to whether the children were also annoyed.

For those who have English as a second language this could be confusing, because the word with is more often used to join nouns.

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As one responder has mentioned, "annoyed by" can be used for statements of general truth ("I am annoyed by loud music"), whereas "annoyed with" and "annoyed at" are the result of the target's past behavior: "I am annoyed with/at my sister because of something that she did."

Try this with other similar verbs and adjectives: frustrated, irritated, angry, happy. Sometimes "at" works, but "with" always does.

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