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A recent question asked about the impropriety of "Where's it at?" The question started me thinking about when at is allowed with where. My first thought was that ne'er the two should meet: at is always extraneous.

Some verbs, though, seem to give more room for the pairing. "Look at where" or "point at where" are far less strident than "sit at where" or "is at where". Still, "look where" and "point where" are far cleaner.

It seems to me that at is more permissible when the subject is not at the location stipulated by where. In the two examples above, the subject is one place and directs her attention "at where". The at becomes a way of keeping distance between the subject and the place.

What is the function of at when it precedes where?

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  • "The dog is at the vat." "At where?" "The vet."
    – JEL
    Nov 8, 2015 at 5:29
  • Oxforddictionaries. com gives "where it's at" and "where someone is at" (informal )
    – V.V.
    Nov 8, 2015 at 5:58
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    The at where constructs produced in the linked question tend to be more clumsy than the simple where constructs. However, in conversation, at is sometimes used to point to a specific portion of someone else's statement. E.g.: "He took the dog to the beach at the resort". A simple query of "Where?" might produce a valid answer of either the beach or the resort, whereas a query of "at where?" would be clearly understood to refer only the resort.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 8, 2015 at 6:14
  • I am not asking about the solitary phrase, "At where?" but any sentence with the structure "at where" within it. "Point at where you want to go," for example.
    – Unrelated
    Nov 8, 2015 at 7:04
  • @V.V. Could you elaborate your comment? What are you responding to?
    – Unrelated
    Nov 8, 2015 at 7:05

2 Answers 2

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Yes,

  • "Point at where you want to go"

could be valid, because in that construction, "where you want to go" is a noun phrase, forming the object of the preposition "at".

Similarly

  • Is this where you want to go?

the same phrase also acts as a noun phrase, but here it's a predicate nominative.

And

  • Where I want to go is none of your business!

    the same wording also acts as a noun phrase, but here it's the subject of the sentence.

So your suggested "at where" is a normal (preposition) + (noun), like "at the beach".

Disclaimer: nothing in the above should be construed as sanctioning the "where are you at" construction, which is another matter entirely.

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"Where is it at?" is colloquial English. "Where is the event happening?" "It's happening at the Town Hall" "Where is it at?" It is commonly used.

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  • That it is colloquially used neither means it is proper, nor does it answer the function that at serves in such a sentence.
    – Unrelated
    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:09

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