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I saw a post somewhere stating that using at with sleep is wrong. It said something about verb aspect.

Is it really wrong? Why? What's the correct sentence to convey the same message?

  • @Rathony The post said opposite of what you do. 11 is a point of time, so at is fine while sleep is an activity which takes a period of time and hence the usage feels unnatural. – Abhishek Kumar Nov 27 '16 at 13:59
  • Of course, I went to bed (sleep) at 11 would be more idiomatic. – user140086 Nov 27 '16 at 14:03
  • What message are you trying to convey? I went to sleep at 11, I fell asleep at 11, I used to go to sleep at 11, I was asleep at 11.... In American English I slept at 11 is unnatural. – Alan Carmack Nov 27 '16 at 15:30
  • @AlanCarmack I went to sleep at 11 is what I want to say. – Abhishek Kumar Nov 27 '16 at 15:32
  • @AlanCarmack Why is I slept at 11 unnatural? – Abhishek Kumar Nov 27 '16 at 15:37
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Technically, one could use I slept at 11, but it is not the most natural or common expression available. One time I might use it would be when reporting past events or conditions, and then I'd put the times first:

At 6, I awoke.
At noon I played football.
At 5 I partied.
At 11 I slept.

But note at 11 I slept does not mean I went to sleep at 11. It means at 11 I was asleep. This is the past simple equivalent to the past progressive At 11 I was sleeping (or I was sleeping at 11) which is more common to say, because to sleep is an action that occurs over time. We don't normally use it in contemporary English to mean, for instance, I started to sleep.

In everyday (American) English, I wouldn't use I slept at 11 but one of the following alternatives, depending on what I wanted to express:

I went to sleep at 11
I fell asleep at 11
I was asleep at 11
I was sleeping at 11
I used to go to sleep at 11
Etc.

| improve this answer | |
  • The natural verb form to use is past continuous: "I was sleeping at 11". – Peter Shor Nov 27 '16 at 15:52
  • @Peter if by normal, you mean much more common. Cf I bowled at 11 v I was bowling at 11. – Alan Carmack Nov 27 '16 at 15:59

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