It was love at first sight, at least for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth

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  • I couldn't say for sure, but it's probably some sort of conjunction, like "however", or "if only". – Andrew Dec 11 '18 at 4:08

It was love at first sight, at least for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth.

It was love at first sight.  It was at least love at first sight for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth. 

The words "at least for" shouldn't be considered under any single syntactical feature.  They don't count as a coherent unit. 

What do count as coherent units are the phrases "at least" and "for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth".  These are two separate prepositional phrases, each doing its own job. 

As I parse these sentences, "at least" modifies "was" while "for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth" modifies "love at first sight". 

We might regard the original phrasing as an example of ellipsis, where the missing elements of the second coordinate predicate follow the pattern of the first:

It was love at first sight, [or] [was] at least [love at first sight] for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth.

That the two prepositional phrases shouldn't count as a single feature is further supported when we reverse their positions:

It was love at first sight, for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth at least.


EDIT TO ADD: I think the later answer provided by Gary Botnovcan is more helpful for the OP than this one.

If you remove the 'at least' from the sentence, giving this:

It was love at first sight for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth.

... it looks to me that 'love at first sight' is the direct object of the verb 'was', and 'for' is a preposition introducing the indirect object of the verb.

My guess is that 'at least' is an adverbial phrase modifying the prepositional phrase which follows it.

I stress I don't know for sure. I'm answering partly in the hope others will comment on whether I am right - because I am trying to learn more about such things myself.

  • The traditional name for this verb's argument is subject complement, not direct object. – Gary Botnovcan Dec 11 '18 at 22:50
  • @Gary Botnovcan Thank you. My guess is the reason for that is that the be-verb is a linking verb, thus intransitive, so it can never have a direct object. Is that correct? Can you recommend any references that may help me sort this distinction out in my mind? – Ross Murray Dec 12 '18 at 6:02
  • I don't think I've seen a good reference for that since my high school days. The patterns that I remember from back then are Subject | Intransitive Verb, Subject | Transitive Verb / Direct Object, Subject | Transitive Verb / Indirect Object / Direct Object, Subject | Transitive Verb / Direct Object / Object Complement, Subject | Linking Verb / Subject Complement. You could search for labels like monotransitive (direct only), ditransitive (indirect and direct), complexly transitive (object and complement) and copular (complement only). – Gary Botnovcan Dec 12 '18 at 15:05
  • @GaryBotnovcan Thank you for that answer. It prompted the thought I should consider having the words "Careful what you ask for!" tattooed on the back of my right hand. :-) – Ross Murray Dec 12 '18 at 19:44

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