I am a programmer so please excuse my poor grammar...

A friend recently posted a question on Facebook asking "which sentence is correct?

1) I have To be to work for 7:30
2) I have to be at work for 7:30

I said it's neither, and the correct sentence is

3) I have to be at work at 7:30

My friend is saying both 2 and 3 are both grammatically correct.

Can someone help me understand the differences between each of them and which ones are grammatically correct?

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  • All three are technically correct. #3 is the most idiomatic. – Hot Licks Mar 12 at 1:15
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    @HotLicks - “for 7:30” just sounds all kinds of wrong to me. It would mark the speaker as a non-native in my mind. Either “at 7:30” or “by 7:30” is idiomatic. – Jim Mar 12 at 1:53
  • @Jim - Depends on where you work. "For 7:30" could mean "for the 7:30 shift" or some such. – Hot Licks Mar 12 at 1:55
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    @Jim You say "It would mark the speaker as a non-native" - "non-native" of where?! Different varieties of English are spoken in many different countries. "I have to be at work for 7:30" sounds perfectly normal & acceptable to this native English speaker living in England! – TrevorD Mar 12 at 19:13
  • @TrevorD - Really??? I am very surprised. “for a/the 7:30 shift/meeting/appointment- sure. Even, the meeting is set for 7:30. But just being at work for 7:30??? I can’t rationalize how that could make sense. Do you have any insight? – Jim Mar 12 at 19:20

I'd say what you have said: "I have to be at work at 7:30." I'd use "at" before "work" because we use it to indicate the place where something happens. From "English Grammar in Use" by R.Murphy:

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And "at" is used for the time of day: at 7:30, at 5 p.m (to mean when exactly something happens).

However, we do use "to" after the verb to be sometimes. For example, "He hasn't been to London." But normally we don't use "to" with the verb "to be" because "to" is used when indicating the place that someone or something visits, moves towards, or points at. So, I don't see the reason why we have to say "I have to be to work."

If something is planned for a particular time, it is planned to happen then (e.g. The party was scheduled for 7:00). But it's not what your sentence is about. You have to be at work at a specific time. I agree with Hot Lick's comment, though. If by "7:30" you mean the 7:30 shift, "for 7:30" is possible.

As I understand it, in the given sentence "at" should be used before "work" and before "7:30".

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