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I stumbled upon this sentence in the news this morning:

Witnesses are requested to attend at the Melbourne West Police Station, 313 Spencer Street, Melbourne.

As a general matter, when would you use "attend at (sth.)"? I've been thinking about this for a bit now as it does seem to have a different meaning than "attend." I understand "attend at" to mean "come to" in the example sentence, but "attend" typically implies much more than a mere physical presence (a teacher may spend as much time in school as her class, but that doesn't mean she "attends school").

The one dictionary I found that does specifically mention the phrase is OED ("intr. Const., on the proceedings (obs.), at the place"), giving the example "He attends regularly at the City Temple." But the very brief definition leaves me wondering whether "attend at (sth.)" is completely synonymous with "come to" or conveys any additional meaning.

  • Basic research is required. OALD is arguably sufficient here, or at least a good starting place. What examples does it give? Is there a remaining question? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '17 at 9:22
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    Children 'attend Bash St School', for instance, but the same would not be said of their teachers. There is a requirement (attend the detention center) / virtual requirement (attend the Forbes Clinic) rather than a free choice involved. And there is metonymy involved (attend Bash St School means much more than go [regularly] to the building). With Melbourne West Police Station, such metonymy is not available, so the intransitive / retrievable object usage is needed (attend [proceedings] at the Melbourne West Police Station), with Melbourne West Police Station merely the location. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '17 at 9:33
  • I have done my "basic research", I just don't think those broad entries for "attend" really address this particular question - my very point was that the meanings do not seem to match. The one dictionary I found that does seem to address the phrase is OED ("intr. Const., on the proceedings (obs.), at the place"), giving the example "He attends regularly at the City Temple." – johnl Dec 21 '17 at 9:40
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    That should be included with your question. // 'Witnesses are requested to attend the Melbourne West Police Station' would not sound as natural; this transitive sense is (at least largely) restricted to the situations given as OED 12a (WS2's answer). The corresponding 'attend at' (St Giles, say) is old-fashioned to archaic. This 'attend at the Melbourne West Police Station ' means 'turn up for the purpose of giving evidence at the Melbourne West Police Station '. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '17 at 10:01
  • @EdwinAshworth I've added it to the question. Thank you for your comment. – johnl Dec 21 '17 at 13:54
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It is a legal usage of "attend " meaning:

  • (Be present at), frequent, go to, visit (legal)

(legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary)

Usage examples:

From A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Bankruptcy:

  • "shall be paid his actual expenses from the estate when examined or required to attend at any place other than the city, town, or village of his residence"

From A Treatise on the Law of Corporations :

  • "while he was in the town, he had notice to attend at a session to be held on the 13th"
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I can "attend a concert", "attend school", or "attend a meeting". That is OED sense 12a.

  1. To present oneself, for the purpose of taking some part in the proceedings, at a meeting for business, worship, instruction, entertainment. a. trans. e.g. to attend church, school, a lecture, a meeting, a funeral, the sittings of a court, also a place of worship.

1885 N.E.D. at Attend Mod. Did you attend the funeral? To attend school regularly.

But if it is merely my presence at a place which is being mentioned, then I will "attend at the police station", or "attend at the cathedral" (for the purposes other than a regular service - where one would simply "attend evensong")

This is OED sense 12b.

1885 N.E.D. at Attend Mod. He attends regularly at the City Temple.

  • Not sure about the downvote, which I've countered (despite the headgear). I largely agree. Though the example given under 12b strikes me as merely an old-fashioned variant of 'He regularly attends the City Temple.' I'd say OP's example is different; there is no sense of membership involved here. Using 'Witnesses are requested to attend the Melbourne West Police Station' smacks of the membership sense and so sounds at least slightly comical; adding the 'at' forces the intransitive usage, with the non-proprietorial sense 'show up'. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '17 at 10:10
  • @EdwinAshworth - it sounds odd to you because it is a specific legal usage of the term, with a different connotation from the ordinary usage. – user067531 Dec 21 '17 at 10:26
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    This isn't really explaining why the "at" is appropriate here, when it isn't commonly used anywhere else. – Will Crawford Dec 21 '17 at 10:56
  • @WillCrawford Well, it's the intransitive use of attend, taking an indirect rather than a direct object. Attend = give attention to. So I can "attend a play", but not "attend a police station". Hence I attend at a police station. – WS2 Dec 21 '17 at 14:49
  • @user159691 As I said above, 'old-fashioned to archaic'. Legalese is often so non-standard that it may well still be off-topic here on ELU. It certainly was five years ago. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '17 at 18:21

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