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There is a security camera on the building to your left

There is a security camera on the building on your left

Is there any real difference in meaning here? Which sounds more natural to native speakers?

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They both sound natural, but I'd say there's a subtle difference... Maybe other native speakers could weigh in to make sure this difference isn't a regional thing.

To me, the phrase "to your left" means "about ninety degrees to the left of where you're facing," and the phrase "on your left" means more generally "to the left of where you're facing."

In your example, if we were walking down the street, I'd probably know exactly which building you were talking about if you said "the building to your left," but I might ask, "Which one?" if you said "the building on your left." (You might be referring to a couple different buildings.)

I'd also say there are subtle differences when you further modify "on/to your left." For example, it sounds much better to me to say, "the next few buildings on your left" than "the next few buildings to your left."

Similarly, if you said "all the buildings to your left," I'd interpret that to mean the buildings that I would see if I turned ninety degrees to my left, possibly including buildings behind me. If you said "all the buildings on your left", I'd interpret that to mean the buildings in front of me on the left hand side of the street.

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    I'm not sure about this. But, to my English sense (and I'm a non-native English speaker), it sounds as if to the left will require some movement or action, at least internally. (If someone said that to me it will urge me to turn my head toward that direction. I may not do that actually, but mentally I would do that.) On the other hand, on the left will not have that effect. On the left just a state of the thing being on the left. I don't know if this is useful, but I hope it is. – Damkerng T. Dec 28 '13 at 16:40
  • @Damkerng I agree. I'd expect to have to move my head to see a building to my left. I might see a building on my left just by shifting my eyes. – godel9 Dec 28 '13 at 16:42
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As a native English speaker and English tutor, I would say that the use of the word "on" for both the building and the camera shows consistency but is also more comfortable for me and what I would naturally say if speaking to someone.

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