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Am I using this short phrase correctly?

Alibi bin Baz-ar and his Beetle Train from the mysterious East had arrived and the good folks of The Forest Glade were at once, both delighted and amazed

  • Yes, this is correct usage, although quite an archaic/old-style way to say it. Perfect for descriptive text, like the roleplay narration you seem to be writing... – tehwalrus Apr 15 '14 at 12:17
  • O K for your help on that. – user67244 Apr 15 '14 at 13:02
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No, you are not using it correctly.

In the example sentence, "at once" and "both" serve the same function; having both of them in the same sentence is redundant and awkward.

You can say,

The good folk were both delighted and amazed

which would be the more idiomatic way to put it in modern English. Or you could say

The good folk were at once delighted and amazed

Here, replacing "both" with "at once" makes the sentence sound a little old-fashioned and a little formal; if that's the effect you're going for, this is perfectly acceptable.

Including both is, at best, extremely strained, and on a casual reading will simply be seen as ungrammatical by a native speaker.

  • "The good folk were at once delighted and amazed" is not the same as "The good folk were both delighted and amazed". "at once" can also mean both "immediately" and "at the same time", "both" means neither of those. – msam Apr 15 '14 at 13:43
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    No. When used in this somewhat archaic construction, "at once" does not mean "immediately;" it means "both." If you want to say "at the same time," you need an additional word or clause to play that role. – chapka Apr 15 '14 at 13:57
  • it means both at the same time...which is not equal to both – msam Apr 15 '14 at 13:58
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    Here is an example of this usage, from Charles Dickens: "The club gets its beer direct from the brewer, by the barrel. So they get it good; at once much cheaper, and much better, than at the public-house." If you put "at once" in an archaic-sounding sentence like the above, a reader familiar with the idiom will read it as "both," not as "both, and immediately." You can use the phrase in one sense or in the other, but not, at the same time, in both senses. – chapka Apr 15 '14 at 14:00
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    From Leviathan: "The most frequent pretext of sedition, and civil war, in Christian Commonwealths hath a long time proceeded from a difficulty, not yet sufficiently resolved, of obeying at once, both God, and man". And of course you can say something like "At once, both men had something occur to them". – msam Apr 15 '14 at 14:14
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Remove the comma after "once". Otherwise, this is correct.

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While the usage is not as common in modern literature as in older, it is still correct.

usage

"At once" when used in this context means "both simultaneously". In some instances the "both" might be redundant, resulting in:

"Alibi bin Baz-ar and his Beetle Train from the mysterious East had arrived and the good folks of The Forest Glade were at once delighted and amazed…"

However this introduces an ambiguity since it could also mean:

"Alibi bin Baz-ar and his Beetle Train from the mysterious East had arrived and the good folks of The Forest Glade were immediately delighted and amazed…"

Another possibility is removing the "at once":

"Alibi bin Baz-ar and his Beetle Train from the mysterious East had arrived and the good folks of The Forest Glade were both delighted and amazed…"

While this, most often, means the same as the original sentence, it is not necessarily always so. Consider "he was serving tea at once, to both his mother and father" vs "he was serving tea, to both his mother and father". The first sentence seems to indicate that he was serving both at the same time, the second doesn't.

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