Preposition: Someone is knocking <at, on> the door.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by learning_grenglish, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. learning_grenglish

    learning_grenglish Senior Member

    Someone is knocking on/at the door.

    Which one is correct?

    I think, the preposition `at' is correct because I have heard the phrase, `at the door' more often.

    Could you help me?
  2. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    Either one is correct. In AE we usually say "knocking on the door," but I've also heard "knocking at the door."
  3. Guapa80 New Member

    USA English
    Both can be correct.

    ON- refers to someone actually coming into physical contact with the door.

    AT- someone is physically standing at the door, but it has nothing to do with them knocking.


    "There's someone AT the door, can you answer it for me?"

    "Do I hear someone knocking ON the door? Can you go see who it is?"

    I hope that helps a little. I may have confused you a bit. maybe someone can come with a better explanation
  4. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    That was a good explanation, Guapa. Welcome to the forum!
  5. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That's true, but "Someone is knocking at the door" with Guapa's second meaning is a very unlikely sentence. If someone were standing at the door and knocking on something else, I would phrase the sentence differently: "Someone is standing at the door and knocking on the wall" or something like that.

    However, I think "knocking at the door" can refer to repeated or intense knocking on the door. Example: "He's been knocking at that door for ten minutes, but no one has answered." Do others agree?
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is another option, "Someone is knocking the door."
  7. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    That's an expression I've never heard before. Is it common in British English?
  8. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    I am most familiar with "Someone is knocking at the door", for what it's worth.
  9. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    This is one possible interpretation for knocking at the door, but not the only one. I think that both He was hammering at the nail and He was knocking at the door more often than not refer to the physical contact.
  10. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I think Guapa80's explanation is a good one, but I agree with others that both forms are possible. I would prefer "knocking on the door" as it fits the preposition rules better, but "knocking at the door" doesn't sound wrong at all. Maybe it means "someone's at the door, knocking".
    I'm afraid panj's "knocking the door" sounds to me like they are saying unkind things about the door, or just bumping into it accidentally.

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