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Some sources say that "at the weekend" is wrong, while other ones say it's correct. Which form is acceptable in American English?

  • On Saturdays her sister Ann usually comes to stay with Mary on/at/for/over the weekend/s.
  • What are you going to do at/on/for/over the weekend/s?
  • We are going to Paris on/at/for/over the weekend/s.
  • Are you going to stay here for/at/on/over the weekend/s?

Which preposition do American English speakers use — at, on, for, over?

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You don't normally say "at the weekend," not unless weekend is being used as an adjective (e.g., "We saw them at the weekend festival"). The differences between on/for/over are much more subtle and contextual, often (but not always) interchangeable, and probably can't be fully addressed in a comment. –  J.R. May 7 '12 at 14:42
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And you can use in when weekend is used as an adjective. For example: We got involved in the weekend class –  Noah May 7 '12 at 18:21
    
in attaches to class not weekend. –  Kris May 8 '12 at 12:30
    
"You'd better ask such questions at the weekend, when we'll be free." –  Kris May 8 '12 at 12:38
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6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have to admit I haven't consulted any sources, but here is what I'd say is "correct":

  • On Saturdays, her sister Ann usually comes to stay with Mary for the weekend.

and

  • What are you going to do for the weekend?
  • What are you going to do over the weekend?

and

  • We are going to Paris for the weekend.
  • We are going to Paris over the weekend.

"Weekend" would not normally be pluralized when preceeded by the word "the". For example:

  • Are you going to stay here on weekends?

And finally, to address "at the weekend": this is often seen in British publications, but I've never seen the phrase "at the weekend" in American English.

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As JR says, at doesn't work. In general, you would use at with a time, e.g., I'm going to do that at 3 PM. You can use on/for/over for a day or date range, with slightly different meanings. On is slightly vague (possibly deliberately so) and would suggest some time during the weekend, or possibly the whole weekend. For the weekend could mean most of the weekend and possibly the entire weekend, and over the weekend explicitly means the whole weekend.

This is based solely on my experience as a native speaker of American English.

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I would qualify what you said about "over the weekend": I can say "I'll fix that over the weekend" and it could mean that I will fix it at some time during the course of the weekend. Also "for the weekend" sounds more like the whole weekend, though not necessarily so, as you said. For example if you are going to "stay for the night" that means all night, not some part of it. –  JeffSahol May 7 '12 at 16:57
    
Does 'on the weekend' also refer to some time during the course of the weekend? –  Monica May 7 '12 at 20:11
    
@Monica - "on the weekend" is definitely not usual American usage. "On Saturday", "on Sunday" - yes. "On the weekend" - no. –  MT_Head May 7 '12 at 22:02
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@Monica - as MT_Head said, it's not very common, but if someone said, I'll get that done on the weekend, it would be to distinguish from getting it done during the week. It might take an hour, or it might take the whole weekend. It also might not get done, of course. :) –  Ben Hocking May 7 '12 at 22:42
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"I don't comment on weekends." –  Kris May 8 '12 at 12:33
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It's worth pointing out that at the weekend is fine in British English. It means "at some point during the weekend".

I'm going to wash the car at the weekend.

Americans would possibly use on for this.

Anne is coming to stay at the weekend —
Anne will arrive during Saturday or Sunday

Anne is coming to stay for the weekend —
Anne will arrive on Friday or Saturday and leave on Sunday or Monday

Anne is coming to stay over the weekend —
could mean either of the above; it could mean that she will arrive at the weekend and stay for longer.

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Actually Americans (in my regional experience) would normally say: "I'm going to wash the car over the weekend." "On the weekend" is not commonly used. –  Lynn May 7 '12 at 17:02
    
Thanks. Edited -- I've heard it used, and other answers here mention it. –  Andrew Leach May 7 '12 at 17:06
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Actually, I'd probably say: "I'm going to wash the car this weekend." No 2-letter preposition needed. –  J.R. May 7 '12 at 19:46
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'On', among other meanings, is used to indicate "the day or time when something happens"; so we could say:

  • I planned to do a lot 'on' the weekend.

  • Is your routine the same 'on' weekends?

'Over', among other meanings, means "during a period of time"; so we could say:

  • She'll stay with us 'over' the weekend.

  • We are planning to go there 'over' the weekend.

  • They decided to read the papers 'over' the weekend.

'For', among other meanings, indicates "the time through which an action extends"; so we could say:

  • Where do you plan to go 'for' the weekend?

'At' doesn't work, this preposition could indicate, for instance, "a part of the day" and "a precise moment," not the entire weekend. (I have to be at lunch at noon.)

If you like, we could add another preposition to your examples: 'throughout'.

'Throughout', among other meanings, indicates "going on for a while" and "all through"; so we could say:

  • It snowed 'throughout' the weekend.
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Thank you very much for your replies. I may be wrong, but I noticed that you still use it interchangeably. Am I right? –  Monica May 7 '12 at 20:08
    
@Monica: Much of the time, there is so little difference in meaning, that, yes, they can be used interchangably. She can stay with us 'for' the weekend, and we can plan to do a lot 'over' the weekend. Those are fine, too. –  J.R. May 7 '12 at 20:24
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Andrew Leach already pointed out that "at the weekend" is acceptable in British English. I thought this was interesting; the following screen shots are both from Macmillan's online dictionary (for the word at, meaning 3), but they one on the left is from their online British dictionary, while the one on the right is from their online American dictionary.

There are only a few differences in the entries (the last of which is pertinent to this conversation, although the others are rather intersting as well):

(1) in 3a, it's match vs. game, and train vs flight;
(2) in one sample sentence, they've changed Edinburgh to Atlanta;
(3) the example sentence What are you doing at the weekend? is omitted from the American version.

enter image description here

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We'd generally use match instead of game; and we may well use plane instead of flight in that sort of colloquial sentence. Interesting that they entirely miss out "at the weekend" in the American version. –  Andrew Leach May 7 '12 at 22:36
    
@AndrewLeach: I think the main reason for changing train to flight in the U.S. version is that not many people in the U.S. catch trains. And we generally say game instead of match for most of our more predominant sports, though tennis is always a "match." –  J.R. May 7 '12 at 23:17
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American speakers emphatically do not use at the weekend, but British speakers emphatically do.

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