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Under what circumstances are these two prepositions used in a grammatically precise manner? I posed this question because a grammar-editing application marked the indiscriminate interchangeable usage of these phrases as being grammatically correct.
I would imagine that these following examples are correct:

"I'm envious of how flawlessly you played the piano."

"I'm envious at the mere thought of your flawless playing."

However, the aforementioned application (Grammarly) found the sentence "I'm envious at how flawlessly you played the piano," to be faultless.
So, which of the above usages is correct?

(I've also searched the site for this question and I have not seen any duplicates, despite there being similar questions.)

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    I think both the sentences are correct. Usually, envy at (verb), and envious of (adv.) are used. – Ram Pillai Sep 14 '20 at 6:39
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    In the usage I'm familiar with (in the US), the object of "envious of" is the thing that you actually feel envy toward ("how flawlessly you played the piano", in your example). In contrast, the object of "envious at" can be anything that triggers the feeling of envy (in your example, "the thought of..."). Note that you're not envious of the thought; it's just that the thought causes you to be envious of the flawless piano playing. [I've made this a comment, rather than an answer, because I haven't looked for supporting documentation.] – Mitchell Spector Sep 14 '20 at 7:32
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In your examples 'envious of' is used before a characteristic or possession the other person has. This is the same as "I'm envious of your car" or "He's envious of their success". This is the most common use of the word 'envy'.

'Envious at', however, precedes 'at the thought of' and the thought is not the source of your envy, it's an event, related to the source, which has triggered the envy.

'Envious at' can also be used with 'sight', 'sound' and other words describing trigger points. For example "I was envious at the sight of Raj driving his new Porche", "Alan was envious at the sound of Bella's virtuoso piano playing" or even "Clarissa was envious at the feel of Deborah's cashmere cardigan"

In summary 'envious at' relates to events or other stimuli which trigger envy whereas 'envious of' relates to the object, condition or possession which is the source of the envy. A rare case of a grammar checker picking up a subtle error correctly!

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  • I see you posted your answer while I was posting my (very similar) comment. I like your examples. – Mitchell Spector Sep 14 '20 at 7:35
  • Thank you! This answers my question. The checker, however, did not think that sentence was wrong! I was proofreading it myself, when I came across this sentence and found it peculiar that the checker failed to mark it as incorrect. – Peter Johnmeyer Sep 18 '20 at 2:11
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    @PeterJohnmeyer Ah, context checkers haven't got any better, then! – BoldBen Sep 19 '20 at 8:39

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