Arrive To vs. Arrive At

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A prepositional error usually associated with ESL learners seems to be gaining ground with native English speakers. It’s the error of following the verb arrive with the preposition to:

The 23-year-old actress arrived to her taping of The Tonight Show… sporting a long blonde beard to match her hair. 

When many early Europeans first arrived to our shores, they were surprised at the lack of organized law enforcement.

As soon we arrived to the restaurant she made sure she was secretive about my daughters [sic] B’day surprise!!!

Ipanema Flip Flops have arrived to Tony Walker & Co.

To is a preposition of movement. One travels to a restaurant, but arrives at a restaurant.

Prepositions that can follow arrive include at, in, and on.

Use at to express arrival at a small place:

The 23-year-old actress arrived at her taping of The Tonight Show.

As soon as we arrived at the restaurant, they brought out the cake.

Use in to express arrival when the destination is a large one like a country or a city:

We arrived in France in November.

When did you first arrive in Milwaukee?

The sentence that has the Europeans arriving “to our shores” can be rewritten with on:

When many early Europeans first arrived on our shores, they were surprised at the lack of organized law enforcement.

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16 thoughts on “Arrive To vs. Arrive At”

  1. ” ‘To’ is a preposition of movement.”
    You are so right, Maeve.

    For me, the evidence indicates that there are millions and millions of people who do not know that:
    1. There are prepositions of place. (at, on, in, etc.)
    2. There are prepositions of time. (before, after, etc.)
    3. There are prepositions of space. (up, down, around, etc.)
    4. There are prepositions of movement (to, into, through, etc.)
    5. There are prepositions of manner. (answering “how?”)
    6. Maybe other categories, and some prepositions fall into two categories.

    In German, there is a prescribed order of applying adverbial modifiers, including prepositions, and I wish that we had this in English. The order is Time, Manner, Place. For example.
    “Morgens, fahre ich mit dem Fahrrad in der Schule.”

    “Morgens” is an adverbial idiom that means “in the morning” or “every morning”.
    “mit dem Fahrrad” means “on the bicycle”.
    “in der Schule” means “to school” – another idiom.
    As a result, this is Time then Manner then Place.

    German has several idiomatic ways of expressing “to go”, and so English is much simpler. In German, for anything with wheels, you use the word “fahren” = “to drive”.
    “Fahren” is also used for being a passenger in a car or a bus, where in English, we simply use “to ride”.
    English has many, many advantages.

  2. A prominent preposition of manner in English: “with”.
    “I did it with my Swiss Army pocket knife!”

  3. “The 23-year-old actress arrived to her taping of The Tonight Show… sporting a long blonde beard to match her hair.”

    LOL, Maeve, what a sight! And who was this actress with the long beard? Else, did you make this one up in jest?


  4. Paraphrasing and adding to you: Errors usually associated with ESL learners and small children seem to be gaining ground with native English speakers.”

    This can be generalized to many of the mistakes we hear more and more often. Yet again I can’t miss a chance to condemn, “on accident”, and “bored of” which are growing like a cancer. A few weeds overwhelm the lawn, it seems, rather than getting smothered by the acres of grass quickly when the grass is blighted, poorly rooted, or some other weak-plant metaphor.

  5. “Arrived to” is correct if followed by a verb but not a noun e.g. “The man arrived to fix the window”.

  6. @ DAW

    I don’t know what relevance German has here…but your example is wrong anyway. “Ich fahre zur Schule” is correct, “In der Schule” (in the dative case) means you’re riding a bike inside the school.

  7. @Brian Gaines: Yes, when it is used in an entirely different context where the to is a completely different kind of to. Your to is basically part of the verb. You can follow anything with anything if you imagine different contexts. It can follow itself and you can say “Arrived arrived” if Arrived is someone who just got here. You can follow it with about if the about is an adjective and is not a preposition, like “He arrived about 2 o’clock”. So, yes he “arrived about 2” but no, he didn’t “arrive about the town.” The point is you can’t follow arrived with the preposition to, not that you can’t ever follow the word arrive with the word to.

  8. Dale:

    Maeve: I searched on Google for “actress arrived to her taping of The Tonight Show… sporting a long blonde beard,” and this page (YOUR page) scored the number three position! Way to go!

    Dale: How about preposition of purpose (for, to)?

    venqax: Are you certain that in Brian’s example, ‘to’ is part of the verb, ‘to fix’? If it were, ‘to fix,’ an infinitive, would function as a noun. To fix cannot be a noun because fix takes an object, window. Therefore, ‘to’ functions as a proposition of purpose, and ‘to fix the window’ is a prepositional phrase modifying arrived.

  9. “How about preposition of purpose?”
    “Preposition of purpose” looks O.K. to me as another category.
    I wrote that there could be a few others.
    On the other hand “preposition of purpose” might be subsumed into “preposition of manner” in all or many cases.
    It just depends on how fine you want the boundaries to be.

    My main quibble with journalists is that “before” is generally a preposition of time, but “ahead of” is a preposition of space:
    “Mr. A crossed the finish line two meters ahead of Ms. B.”
    I think that people want to use “ahead of” instead of “before” just to make themselves sound like chromedomes.

    Also, note that the English preposition “before” means exactly the same as the German preposition “bevor”. This is no accident because “before” is a word from Anglo-Saxon.
    Too many people act as if they have been vaccinated against such knowledge as the roots of words.

  10. Whatever the function of “to fix the window,” the “to” of “to fix” is definitely part of the infinitive “to fix,” and an infinitive is a verb form.

    In the sentence “He arrived to fix the window,” the phrase “to fix the window” functions as an adverb modifying the main verb “arrived”; the adverbial phrase tells why “he” arrived. “The window” is the object of the infinitive.

  11. Hi. This discussion was made a long time a go so I don’t know if I will even get a reply, but I was just wondering..
    What would be the case if we added the word ‘late’ to the sentence? For example:
    The plane arrived late to the airport. Would this be correct? or should we use at, or even in?

  12. Can I get a little technical here? If I can even resuscitate even the very last breath to this post that is…
    I understand, with the past tense, have arrived needs a preposition of at because no “more” movement.

    But what if the tense is present continuous?
    Like I am arriving(?)… Can we assume the speaker and the action is moving, and, therefore, use adjectives like “to”?

    I am arriving to the park soon (meaning I am close to the park but I am still going there).

    I might have more phrases that may back me up here…
    There are webpage titles like:
    Arriving to Glasgow Airport (GLA) | Glasgow Airport
    (One of the page titles for the official Glasgow Airport website)
    (As the speaker assumes to be in motion, I am guessing to is used there instead of at as well).

    I am not too sure about whether the future tense “will arrive” should precede the adjective “to” though, because the tense may assume “being present” at the place in the future.

  13. An English teacher of mine once said something to the effect of, “A preposition is anywhere a squirrel can go.; above, below, inside, through, around, up, down, etc.”

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