I came across this question, solving some problems in an English book.

She read the book ________________ the desk.

(A) to (B) at (C) from (D) on

I see that (A), (C) is absurd, but in the case of (B), I think that could be correct, but the answer is (D).

Is it because (B) is not matching either the verb, "read" or the noun, "book"?

  • I would have chosen B as well as the most common answer, but I see how and why D had been the answer, to which I would say, to the book, "Need more information, Book!" Jan 23, 2017 at 12:40

2 Answers 2


All four have different meanings. None are invalid.

  1. She read the book to the desk.

    This would imply she recited the book out loud facing a desk or looking down at the desk. Although you said it is absurd, a native English speaker might use this to describe a child, as an insecure reader, mumbling the words of a book as if speaking to the desk. "Speak up child, you are reading the book to the desk!"

  2. She read the book at the desk.

    This would imply someone was sitting at a desk to read a book, rather than some other location. "The book was so heavy she chose to read it at the desk."

  3. She read the book from the desk.

    This would indicate that the book being read was the one chosen from the desk, rather than some other alternate location. "Would you like the book on the shelf of the one on the desk? She chose to read the book from the desk."

  4. She read the book on the desk.

    This can have two meanings; and can be used to convey meaning (3) or meaning (4), or both. It could be "She has a book and put it on the desk to read it." or "She moved to the desk and read the book that was located there."

  • 1
    @Araucaria I've added clarification Jan 23, 2017 at 11:52
  • 2
    @Brian Could 4 also mean "she read the book while being on top of the desk"?
    – Kreiri
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:54
  • @Kreiri Yes! Thats one I missed. Jan 23, 2017 at 11:55
  • I think three could also be "She was reading the book to someone else somewhere while she was physically at the desk" like a preacher preaching from the pulpit. Jan 23, 2017 at 12:38

I was about to respond, and noticed the first answer. It is good as far as it goes, but I have a couple more points that might be useful...

A. 'She read the book to the desk.' -- Unusual, but if there is a group of people sitting at a desk -- perhaps a jury of some sort, or a group of judges -- they can be referred to as "the desk", and if she read the book to them, them this is a context in which the sentence is possible. You might read to the desk itself, but this would be a rather strange activity -- unless the desk contained a video link, and by reading to the desk, she is actually reading to the video camera!

B. 'She read the book at the desk.' -- 'She read the book (while sitting or standing) at the desk.'

C. 'She read the book from the desk.' -- She was sitting or standing at the desk and read the book from there. This formation is fairly common in referring to speechmaking, or church readings: 'She read the speech from the podium.' 'She read the lesson from the lectern.'

D. 'She read the book on the desk.' -- 'She read the book (that was lying) on the desk.' 'She read the book (as it lay) on the deak.' 'She read the book (than was originally lying) on the desk.'

ALL the prepositions are valid, if you can find a valid context. So the original question is not as clear as the person setting it assumed!

But if the question was something like "Which preposition is most likely in a well-formed sentence?", then D would probably be the preferred answer.

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