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Why is "at" used in following sentence :

The children with their yellow hair hollered at the deep dome of Martian sky?

I think "under" would be the better preposition to be used, wouldn't it?

  • What preposition do you think would be better? And did you look up at in a good online dictionary, like Wordnik? The word at has several definitions – one of them might fit sentence. – J.R. Jul 4 '17 at 9:27
  • @J.R.I think under would be the better preposition to be used,isn't it? – M.Naeem Ahmad Jul 4 '17 at 9:31
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    You really, really should put that in your question, not in a comment. That kind of information makes a big difference on how your question will be received by the community. Without it, we don’t understand why you can’t look up at in a dictionary. With it, we can pinpoint where your confusion is. – J.R. Jul 4 '17 at 10:07
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The prepositions "under" and "at" mean two different things. Consider:

We shot arrows under the full moon.
We shot arrows at the full moon.

If I use "under" it means we were doing archery when there was a full moon and doesn't really explain which way our arrows went. If I use "at" it means that we aimed our arrows at the full moon.

The children with their yellow hair hollered at the deep dome of Martian sky. There was no answer but the racing hiss of wind through the stiff grass.

When people yell at the sky there is a sense of directing your voice at something intangible. So the children weren't just running around on Mars hollering at nothing, they were yelling toward the sky. It might be interpreted as yelling at the planet to see if it would answer them back.

Here's another example:

Honestly, I think you may as well throw up your hands, yell at the sky about how dumb life is, and then keep using Curse.

From a forum thread where someone was looking for a replacement for a piece of software named "Curse" Yelling/hollering/screaming at the sky is just a way of saying let your emotion out without directing it at someone or something (although some people view it as yelling at God).

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    Honestly, sometimes "at" expresses location. "We were talking this over at his house." – SovereignSun Jul 4 '17 at 13:13
  • @SovereignSun: Houses are a funny beast. In that case it's more like you're referring to a position on a map. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 4 '17 at 16:18
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"holler" is a verb that means "to shout loudly"

"holler at" means "to shout at someone/something". There is often a sense of aggression when we "talk at", "shout at", "holler at" someone of something. This is also typically a one-sided communication.

"holler under" means that someone/something was situated under something (or someone) and shouted loudly.

"holler to" is also possible. In that case, the person you are hollering to is typically far away. You are trying to send a message across a great distance, so you must holler.

Edit: Holler as the intransitive verb means "give a loud shout or cry" and "holler at" [US - usually in imperative] means "to make contact with someone/something; to contact someone/something" so we might interpret the sentence "The children hollered at the deep dome of Martian sky" in two ways:

  • The children where situated at the deep dome of Martian sky and there they hollered. (Here "at" expresses location and not the object of action)
  • The children were trying to make contact with the deep dome of Martian sky.

Both of which can be comprehended uniquely.

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    You could also holler under (in which case the verb would be intransitive), and it makes sense to expect it since one often does things "under the sky". Note that "holler at the sky" is good too but must be understood as a poetic usage, as if the sky could be addressed. (In that sense it's not unlike a dog who "howls at the moon".) – Luke Sawczak Jul 4 '17 at 11:27
  • @LukeSawczak Yeh, holler under is perfectly possible. btw, you've made a point about the intransitive. – SovereignSun Jul 4 '17 at 11:52

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