1

I wrote this sentence recently, where I used the preposition at after the word anxiety.

I suppose they1 are valuable in that they reveal our anxiety at being human.

I'm not sure if the preposition at can properly follow anxiety in this way. I may have done it for the sake of euphony, i.e. at rhymes with that.

A quick search on ngrams shows that the phrase "anxiety at" is indeed used, more than "anxiety concerning" and a little less than "anxiety on". The phrase "anxiety over" has a substantial edge and "anxiety about" is most common by far.

But this research is by no means conclusive. It just shows that "anxiety about" is the most common. Which preposition would you choose to complete the sentence? Do you think that using at this way is a good choice, or would most people flag it as suspicious?


1 The pronoun here refers to the theories of free will and determinism. To give more context, I was debating whether these theories are useful or just fun to think about.

2
  • It's understandable, but anxiety about is better.
    – Mick
    Nov 11 '17 at 6:03
  • Your NGram has a problem. A lot of the results for "anxiety at" are not how you are using it but rather "anxiety at place/time". Therefore, you cannot use it to make any conclusions about relative frequency.
    – Laurel
    Nov 11 '17 at 6:10
1

I consider "anxiety at" to be idiomatic, and in terms of sound as well as precise sense it's a better choice in this sentence than "anxiety about." The preposition at means "used to indicate the person or thing toward which an action, motion, or feeling is directed or aimed" (Merriam-Webster). "Being human" is a thing, and "anxiety" is a feeling. So there's no question of its being correct. I wouldn't have thought twice about it.

1

Anxiety over being human sounds more idiomatic, at least in everyday English (not technical contexts).

Anxiety over being... can be followed by an adjectival phrase or a noun phrase. For example, from Self-esteem for Dummies:

which can then lead to performing at very low levels because your anxiety over being a failure is so high.

Anxiety over being can also be followed by an adjective or adjective phrase.

Her anxiety over being left alone in the house reached epic proportions.

Or

His anxiety over being abandoned finally went away.

Sounds better than Anxiety at being human.

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