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Which expression is better? Which is right? Why?

A. Sorry to disturb you at weekend.

B. Sorry to disturb you on weekend.

C. Sorry to disturb you at weekends.

D. Sorry to disturb you on weekends.

E. Sorry to disturb you at the weekend.

F. Sorry to disturb you on the weekend.

G. Sorry to disturb you at the weekends.

H. Sorry to disturb you on the weekends.

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Thank you @J.R. english.stackexchange.com/questions/66999/… –  user19148 Jul 22 '12 at 9:00
    
At the weekend is the British usage; on the weekend is the American form. –  choster Jul 22 '12 at 9:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It really depends on the situation.

But if you're just asking about grammar, all of your sentences are right and in use except A, B and G.

These are the reasons:

  1. "at" and "on" are both used. The former in British English and the latter in American.

  2. Cambridge Dictionary recognizes "at weekends" but not "at the weekends."

  3. It isn't always so but "the weekend" refers to a specific weekend while "(the) weekends" means every weekend.

With the last, you can determine which one is "better" depending on your context.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionaries

Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary

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In this situation: I'm writing an e-mail to an Australian Teacher on Sunday (today), which is better? I think E is better, do you agree with me? –  Yishu Fang Jul 22 '12 at 12:49
    
Like G in the U.K., H is ungrammatical in the U.S. You could use 'on the weekends', but only if you're referring to a specific set of weekends. ('In June, I play tennis on the weekends.') –  Peter Shor Jul 22 '12 at 12:53
    
Hi Peter. That's interesting. I based that particular point on a list that includes "on the weekends," albeit from a British source:dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/weekend –  Cool Elf Jul 22 '12 at 13:05

Everybody is missing the main point. The usage of prepositions is idiomatic. So it varies depending on the speaker.

"At the weekend", "at a weekend" and "at weekends" are used in British English; "on the weekend", "on a weekend" and "on (the) weekends" in American English.

Generally speaking, words which refer to a period of time take in, like "in the morning", "in the month", "in the daytime" etc. Words which refer to an exact point of time take at, like "at 9 p.m.", "at dinner", "at Christmas", "at noon" and so on. Words which refer to a day or date take on, like "on Monday", "on 18th", "on Tuesday morning" etc.

So according to this rule the word "weekend" should be the object of "in". But it is not. We have never heard "in the weekend"!

So the answer is the usage of preposition is merely idiomatic.

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Following the last reasoning, wouldn't it be so that "at" , instead of "in" the weekend, is the Britishly recognized usage because it refers to an specific time in the week? Also, considering American reasoning, "on" is a reference to the fact that one would be considering a connection to the whole of time as in "during" the weekend? –  Paulo Ney Leite Jul 25 '13 at 2:29

The answer is F, which I'll explain in two parts:

The reason for on as opposed to at is that at would be used for a time with less length, such as "sorry to disturb you at dinner." For the most part, the delineation occurs at the period of a day, example: "What are we doing on Friday?" and "What are you doing at 5:00pm?"

Why you need "the", which is to say that answer b is not correct, is that "weekend" is ambiguous by itself. Example: "are you free on the weekend so we can get together?" means this coming weekend or the implied weekend in reference whereas "are you free on a weekend?" just means any old weekend.

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4  
British English uses "at" and E is correct, not F. See this related question –  Andrew Leach Jul 22 '12 at 8:40
    
I'd vote for (F), too (in the US, anyway), although I might also be inclined to over or during in lieu of on. Over would work especially well on Monday: "Sorry I bothered you over the weekend..." –  J.R. Jul 22 '12 at 8:47
    
Even H would be grammatical if they the action has happened for many weekends –  Noah Jul 22 '12 at 10:27
1  
Do Americans also say "I'll see you on the end of the week"? –  coleopterist Jul 22 '12 at 10:44
    
@coleopterist: No, I'd use at in that instance: "See you at the end of the week!" –  J.R. Jul 22 '12 at 10:59

I would use 'on' because a weekend is two days (or more). 'At' is more particular, for a smaller place or shorter time, whereas on/in are used for longer durations or larger spaces. "Let's eat at an Italian restaurant at 9pm" against "Let's eat in downtown on Friday".

Going by this logic, 'on' should be used.

'The' is imperative because weekend is a common noun, and to add specificity to it, we use the article the. 'The' denotes person(s) or thing(s) already mentioned, under discussion, implied, or otherwise presumed familiar to the listener or reader.

So you should use 'the' too.

Hence, from your choices, F is the correct answer.

D could make sense too, if you have been disturbing someone for many weekends. So your 'disturbee', for lack of a better word, would know that you acknowledge the fact that you disturb him on most, if not all, weekends.

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Surely all are wrong as they cast an amount of ambiguity:

  1. "Sorry to disturb you" is very much time bound, i.e I have recently, am currently or am just about to disturb you. But "at/on [the] weekend[s]" could refer to a past or future event. Therefore to avoid ambiguity, reference should be made to whether it is a weekend in the past, future or both.

  2. Whilst a disturbance could be a instantaneous event (such as making a single loud noise), it is more likely to have a certain amount of length to it. Moreover, the fact that it is at/on the weekend implies both Saturday and Sunday - reinforcing the length of the disturbance. Therefore I would suggest that "over the weekend" is actually better as it clarifies that the disturbance is happening for a duration within the time period defined as the weekend. But if you are not fond of "over", "at" would be my second preference as I am BE. Taking this further, my view is that "at" should be used for events that are not days of the week (at Christmas, at Easter, at the weekend, at lunchtime, at 9 o'clock) irrelevant of length, and "on" where the time is a day of the week (on Saturday). I would argue that this is to do with the fact that "at" implies a certain flexibility in the period, whereas "on" implies rigidity. "Saturday" is a defined period of a common unit of time (days), if it happens on Saturday, it happens only on Saturday. Whereas "at 9 o'clock" implies starting at 9, but continuing for an flexible length of time; similarly "at Christmas" implies starting at some point during the Christmas period, not necessarily "on Christmas Day"; "at the weekend" implies some point during the weekend which could either be Saturday or Sunday or both.

  3. The disturbance is subjective. Therefore I would suggest "Sorry if I disturb" if you are unsure of whether it is considered a disturbance, or "Sorry that I disturb" if you are aware that it is considered a disturbance.

Therefore my preference would be along the lines of, but could equally be adapted to suit the specific situation:

"Sorry if I disturb you over the weekend." (a potential number of future incidents) "Sorry to have disturbed you at the weekend." (isolated past incident) "Sorry for any disturbance at weekends." (ongoing problem).

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