• I hope you weren’t shocked by / at what I said.
• I was shocked by / at what I saw. I’d never seen anything like it before.

  • While both are generally similar, shocked by refers to harsher situations than shocked at. E.g., Shocked by the police action; shocked by the announcement, shocked by the action, vs. shocked at his remark; shocked at his approach; shocked at her reply etc. May other experts comment more on the differences...
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 17, 2019 at 9:34

1 Answer 1


Both are common. A good resource for this sort of information is the Google Ngram Viewer: here it shows shocked by overtaking shocked at in frequency (within published books scanned into the Google Books database) around 1927, though without ever driving it out of currency.

Difference in meaning seems slight and hard to nail down. One hypothesis might be that by suggests that the stimulus is objectively shocking, while at puts the emphasis more on the subjective response: the same stimulus might seem shocking to some but not to others.

  • 'By' at least strongly connotes a human agent responsible for the shockingness, and culpability. So 'shocked at what I said' focuses more on the content and may be an attempt to cover up the prior failings of the speaker; 'by' concedes there might have been a teeny bit of impropriety. / 'Shocked by what I saw' again at least hints at personification, responsibility for the outrage lying somewhere. 'At' just references the shocking event / aftermath. Dec 17, 2019 at 11:52
  • Per the Oxford English Dictionary, @David, this adverbial usage of plenty (“As an intensifier”) is “colloquial and regional (chiefly U.S. and Caribbean).” Dec 18, 2019 at 13:51
  • The less tangled question is whether an intensifier is even wanted there. Out it goes. Thanks on both counts, then, @David. Dec 18, 2019 at 18:07

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