I don't understand the function and meaning of the "at" in the following examples. Is the "at" necessary in these phrases? Could it be omitted?

At over 17 minutes in length, it is a tour de force that requires multiple listens to truly appreciate its majesty. (Is it possible to just say "over 17 minutes in length")

At 5 minutes in length, the complete "Murder to Excellence" is the longest track on the album. (Is it possible to just say "5 minutes in length")

  • No, the at is not necessary. However, in your particular construction, it sounds slightly odd without it. (But not actually wrong.) – Jason Bassford May 1 '19 at 4:25
  • Could you explain the meaning added by the "at" ? I really don't get it why it should add to the phrases to be more idiomatic? – Talha Özden May 1 '19 at 9:33
  • The at is understood to be there, even if it isn't. But it's more idiomatic to include it than to exclude because more people do include it than exclude it. There may be no logical reason for it—it's just the way it is. Note that you can also replace at with being or even running. The use of being or running would also sound a bit more natural than not having anything at all. (Again, simply because they are more commonly used.) – Jason Bassford May 1 '19 at 10:33
  • [multiple listens: buzzer] – Lambie Feb 28 at 17:10

It might be easier to understand the need for the preposition at if you put the sentence in more common order:

It is a tour de force at over 17 minutes in length...


It is a tour de force of over 17 minutes in length...

At over 17 minutes is a propositional phrase modifying the subject, it.

  • It is a tour de force over 17 minutes in length (without any preposition at all) sounds perfectly natural to me. You can use a preposition, but you don't have to—and frequently don't. So, this is a poor example. It is less idiomatic to exclude a preposition in the construction in the question—although it's not wrong. And you would never start a sentence with Of over 17 minutes, so your changed sentence structure that means to demonstrate different prepositions is a poor choice for that reason as well. – Jason Bassford May 1 '19 at 4:23
  • @JasonBassford, your version, without a comma, is using a different grammatical device, apposition, in which one noun is used to explain another. The original uses a prepositional phrase. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apposition, if you do not know the difference. – DrMoishe Pippik May 1 '19 at 17:52
  • First of all, the use or lack of a comma has nothing to do with something being an apposition. An apposition without a comma is a restrictive apposition; an apposition with a comma is a non-restrictive apposition. Second, I only provided a sentence fragment in my above comment—I never got to the point where I would use a comma or not. (The comma in the text was not part of the italicized sentence.) But starting the sentence with Of over 17 minutes would be wrong regardless of whether or not I used one. – Jason Bassford May 1 '19 at 21:04

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