Why you say 'ran at the column' or 'flung herself against the transparent door' or go/come to somewere? Why everywere prepositions serve as an indication of direction but the prepositions are different?

Meg kicked at Charles Wallace and ran at the column.

As Charles Wallace lunged at her she flung herself against the transparent door and she was through it.

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engl

2 Answers 2


In this context, “at” implies direction and intentionality, but not success.

Charles lunged “at” Meg, deliberately and in her direction, but very well might miss.

“Against” means physically touching, but without any implication of intentionality. The Costa Concordia did crash against a rock off Isola del Giglio; that doesn't mean the captain meant to do it, even though he steered in that direction.

  • I can not understand why 'at' means 'without success'. If I say 'lunget to Meg' will it be with success? How preposition can mean it definitely?
    – Vitaly
    May 16, 2019 at 4:35
  • "At" doesn't mean without success -- or with success. It's just what you are trying to do. If you lunge "at" Meg, you are lunging in her general direction. If you succeed, then you "hit" or "tackled" or "collided with". May 16, 2019 at 22:31

You can certainly say

She flung herself at the transparent door.

but this would imply with some force, and possibly intending to cause damage. For example, suppose someone is trying to get through a locked door:

He threw his entire weight at the locked door, but it refused to budge.

Here it's clear he is trying (unsuccessfully) to force open the door with his body.

Meanwhile, "against" implies impact but not necessarily with significant force. Throwing yourself against something instead implies strong emotion of some kind, but no intent to break that thing.

An example (from "Gone with the Wind")

She threw herself against the opening door as he was walking out. "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?" she cried.

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," he said, then strode away without looking back.

In this scene, Scarlett isn't trying to break the door, but she is very upset.

  • What about 'run at the column' and 'run to' for example - "When they were gone, I... I ran to my house found my wife." What is the difference in meaning and why prepositions are different?
    – Vitaly
    May 16, 2019 at 4:21
  • About 'against' I have found a good example - It's not good to press against the gentleman. So against here means accidentally, but if I say press at the gentleman it would mean a deliberate action. Am I right?
    – Vitaly
    May 16, 2019 at 4:58
  • "To" implies "toward the general location of", so it's different from "at" which implies "straight into". You aim at a target, for example. Of course you can run into a house, but this is ambiguous whether you went inside the house, or crashed into it. To illustrate this is a joke: "A man walked into a bar, and said 'ouch!'". It's (mildly) funny because there are many jokes that start with "A man walked into a bar" (google them), but in this case it references the other meaning of "into" and the other meaning of "bar".
    – Andrew
    May 16, 2019 at 16:48
  • Meanwhile, "press" is a (relatively) gentle action. If you press yourself against the gentlemen, they might rather enjoy it.
    – Andrew
    May 16, 2019 at 16:50

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