Thursday, May 1, 2014

In, on or at the corner?

According to the dictionary, a corner is "a point where two converging lines meet, forming an angle, either external or internal". (In Spanish we have two words for this: the internal angle is called rincón, whereas the external one is esquina).

Which preposition goes with corner: in, on or at? The answer is the three o them can precede this word. However, the three expressions have different meanings:
  • When corner means an interior angle formed by two meeting walls, we use the preposition in. A piano was in the corner of the room. 

Hover your cursor over the Image
In the corner

  • On the corner means "occupying the surface". For example, the shop in the picture is on the corner of the street. You can also say that a person is standing on the corner because they are occupying a space.

Image by Jackie Bird 
On the corner
  • At the corner means near or adjacent to a corner.  For example, you can say "Let's meet at the corner of my street". But you can also say that the shop is at the corner of High Street and Station Road, that is, when you give the name of the two streets that intersect each other, at is used instead of on because you don't refer to the surface but the point of intersection.
Here's a tip that can help you remember this: in is used with the idea of being inside a volume; on when there is an idea of surface, and at when we just mean a point or being near something.

Another preposition that can be used with corner is around.  He went around the corner, which literally means that he turned around the corner. However, this can  also have an idiomatic meaning (see below).

Other expressions with corner:
  • Out of the corner of the eye: you see something but not clearly, because you see it sideways rather than directly. He saw something move out of the corner of his eye.
  • Blind corner: a street corner that you cannot see around as you are driving. Never overtake on a blind corner!
  • Corner shop: small local store. I'll pop in the corner shop to get some milk.
  • Just / right around the corner: very near either in space or in time: Exams are just around the corner. My boyfriend lives just around the corner.
  • The four corners of the earth /world: many different parts of the world. People from the four corners of the world gathered for the event.
  • A tight corner: a dangerous or awkward position from which escape is difficult: His lying got him into a tight corner.
Spring is just around the corner!
How about an exercise to see how much you can remember?

In the following song by "The Script", a man is waiting for his lover on the corner of a street. He says he's not moving, he's going to stand his ground until she realizes that she is missing him and so goes to the corner where they first met. Isn't it romantic? 

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