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I am writing to express my complete dissatisfaction with the meal I was served last night.

I am writing to express my complete dissatisfaction at the meal I was served last night.

Which one is correct? It seems to me that the first sentence is correct and the second is wrong, but according to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary it's correct to use at:

She expressed deep dissatisfaction at the way the interview had been conducted.

I'm not a native speaker of English so I'm asking the natives what they think about it.Is "at" the replacement of "with"?

  • As this NGram shows, both prepositions (with and at) are used between dissatisfaction and the way. They both mean exactly the same, but with is (increasingly) more common. – FumbleFingers Aug 10 at 11:50
  • What about "at" the meal? Is it correct? – user99492 Aug 10 at 12:08
  • You shouldn't assume there's only one "correct" preposition for any given context. But idiomatically, it's true that the preference for dissatisfaction with X is even stronger where X is a straightforward noun (such as the meal). We're more likely to use dissatisfaction at X where X identifies an action (perhaps adverbially identifying how that action was carried out). But these are fine points that will vary from speaker to speaker (so as a learner, you should probably just stick to with in all cases; you won't go far wrong). – FumbleFingers Aug 10 at 13:12
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For me, these are both fine:

'I am writing to express my complete dissatisfaction with the meal I was served last night.'

'She expressed deep dissatisfaction at the way the interview had been conducted.'

Whereas this sentence sounds very wrong:

'I am writing to express my complete dissatisfaction at the meal I was served last night.'

As a native English speaker, it is often hard to think about the reason why something sounds right or wrong. I am wondering if you would use 'with' when you are talking about a noun, and 'at' when you are talking about a verb. I suspect there will be a counter-example though!

Alan.

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