write at / on a computer

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Takahero, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. Takahero Senior Member

    Do you think that write something at a computer is a correct expression?

    Look at the American students writing haiku at their computers.
    (This sentence is from a textbook.)

    I think that write something on a computer is much better.
    Am I wrong?

    Thank you.
  2. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    We sit at a desk, computer, table, etc. so the students were sitting at their computers and typing haiku.
    The problem with saying "writing on a computer" is that it could be taken to mean someone is using a marker pen to deface the computer :D
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    I think you can say either. When I say that I'm writing a paper on a computer, no reasonable listener would think I am writing on its case with a marker.

    The difference is the emphasis: "at" stresses the physical place where the students are working, but "on" stresses the device which they are using.

    By analogy: I can write a shopping list at the kitchen table, on paper (and with a pen, but that's not part of this discussion).
  4. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    It's also possible to for the first sentence to mean "sitting at the computer writing a haiku on a piece of paper".
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Note that you can eat your lunch at your computer (for example)

    If you use "at," you could be sitting at your computer writing something out in longhand (cursive) on a piece of paper.

    Therefore, I agree with you that "on" is better.

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