At/on the beach

  • edtempleton

    Member
    English- USA
    It really depends on what you are trying to say. Normally one would say i am "at the beach" if you are visiting or going to the beach. However, if you are doing something and are describing the location, one would say: we are playing soccer "on the beach"
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It depends on the context, Edgardg. I'm afraid I can't think of a rule for it, but here are a few examples:

    We spent an enjoyable day at the beach.
    There's a nice little restaurant on the beach.
    I'd love to be lying on the beach right now, soaking up sun.
    They have a summer cottage at the beach.
    The road ends at the beach.
     

    spielenschach

    Senior Member
    Portugal . Portuguese
    Both, it depends on the contex:
    At is more abstract. It’s, in your mind a further distant thing while on (on the beach, for example), we get under the impression, as on the beach, we are there, in contact). In a way, translating what goes in our mind when we have to choose…
    - When they are not wading out into the Mediterranean to sneak pictures of Brigitte Bardot semi-nude on her private beach…;
    - Vatican officials on the list of those who make the act of obedience to the Pope after the appearance were scattered, some at the beach. Such notables…
    For better understanding you must construct some phrases of your own and ask again, if we agree…
     

    Edgardg

    Senior Member
    Polish, Poland
    Thank you all. Here is the context: "When I am ......., I bask in the sun."

    Rather "on" not "at", am I right?
     

    gvergara

    Senior Member
    Español
    As a nonnative speaker, I use at when I see the beach as a point, which may include the sea, the sand, and all the things surrounding the beach, such as streets, houses, shops, etc. On the contrary, I use on when I want to place emphasis on the fact that I had some kind of contact with the beach itself, that is its sea, its sand, a restaurant with a view on the beach, etc. So I could say

    Yesterday I was on the beach. ===> Yesterday I went to the coast, lay in the sand for some hours and then took a swim in the ocean.

    Yesterday I was at the beach. ===> Yesterday I went to the coast, had lunch in town, went shopping and then I came back.

    Am I right? Thanks

    Gonzalo
    -------
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    As a nonnative speaker, I use at when I see the beach as a point, which may include the sea, the sand, and all the things surrounding the beach, such as streets, houses, shops, etc. On the contrary, I use on when I want to place emphasis on the fact that I had some kind of contact with the beach itself, that is its sea, its sand, a restaurant with a view on the beach, etc. So I could say

    Yesterday I was on the beach. ===> Yesterday I went to the coast, lay in the sand for some hours and then took a swim in the ocean.

    Yesterday I was at the beach. ===> Yesterday I went to the coast, had lunch in town, went shopping and then I came back.

    Am I right? Thanks

    Gonzalo
    -------
    I think your idea of direct contact is good. The example for "at the beach", however, is not the way I would describe that situation.

    If I went to a coastal town, had lunch and went shopping, but never went near the beach in that town, I would say, "I spent yesterday at the coast" or "I was in [town name] yesterday." To be at the beach is either to be on the beach or right next to the beach.
     

    Anais Ninn

    Senior Member
    Korean
    JamesM, your examples are very helpful, but I don't see a discernable difference between "there's a nice little restaurant on the beach." and "they have a summer cottage at the beach." Would you provide some explanation?

    Thanks!

    Anais

    It depends on the context, Edgardg. I'm afraid I can't think of a rule for it, but here are a few examples:

    We spent an enjoyable day at the beach.
    There's a nice little restaurant on the beach.
    I'd love to be lying on the beach right now, soaking up sun.
    They have a summer cottage at the beach.
    The road ends at the beach.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I hesitated to post on this thread, because I'm not sure what the difference is. :) I probably should have followed my natural instinct.

    I can imagine saying, "They have a summer cottage on the beach", but in that case the house fronts the beach, in my mind. A summer cottage at the beach might be across the street from houses directly on the beach, but still in a beach community. A house that is located a half-mile away from the beach but in a town that has a beach would not be a "beach house" to me, and I would not say they had a house at the beach.

    The same would hold true for the restaurant. A restaurant could be at the beach and not on the beach. For me, "on the beach", when talking about a building, means that there is nothing between the building and the beach. In other words, gvergara's idea of direct contact with the beach meaning "on the beach" seems to me to be the clearest definition.

    I think I'm getting myself more tangled up than ever here. I should probably stop and let clearer heads jump in with an explanation.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thank you for trying, JamesM. :)

    What image are you getting "the road ends at the beach." then? Or is it completely wrong?

    Anais
    In that case, if you followed the road to its end you would be at the beach. The road, however, does not actually sit on top of the beach. You do not drive on pavement that has been laid over the sand of the beach, if you know what I mean.

    That's the image I get, in any case.
     

    Anais Ninn

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Oops! Sorry. I meant to ask you about "the road ends on the beach." which is not one of your examples. Could you share your mental picture again? :)

    Anais

    In that case, if you followed the road to its end you would be at the beach. The road, however, does not actually sit on top of the beach. You do not drive on pavement that has been laid over the sand of the beach, if you know what I mean.

    That's the image I get, in any case.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Oops! Sorry. I meant to ask you about "the road ends on the beach." which is not one of your examples. Could you share your mental picture again? :)

    Anais
    To me, that means that the road actually travels over the sand at the end and then stops. If you drove off the end of the road, your car's tires would be stuck in sand. :)
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    In BE we are saved from this problem since the location where we are going for our holiday is commonly called the seaside where hopefully we will find a beach. Therefore, if we are not actually physically on the beach getting a tan, we are at the seaside enjoying our holiday.
     

    amaia170787

    New Member
    spanish
    you can use one or the other depending on the context:
    i'm on the beach: i'd say that when i'm lying or doing activities on the sand.
    i'm at the beach: i think this is more general. i'd say that when i'm on the coast, visiting the beach and places around.
     
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