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I just wondered which preposition would be correct in the given content below:

We'll go through the class list and start with the person at the top of the list.
We'll go through the class list and start with the person on the top of the list.
We'll go through the class list and start with the person from the top of the list.

Is there any difference in meaning or are they interchangeable?

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    At would be the most common one for your exact context, but all those prepositions are at the very least "acceptable". And in some contexts, I'm sure the less common alternatives would actually be preferred (personally, I prefer You're on the top of my to-do list, for example). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 28 '19 at 15:31
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I think I like at the best; however, I would regard them all as idiomatic and correct, with no discernible difference in meaning.

As an aside, we could shorten the sentence a little bit by using the preposition atop:

We'll go through the class list and start with the person atop the list.

This isn't necessary unless you'd like to cut the number of prepositional phrases at the end of the sentence from three down to two. Another way to accomplish the same objective would be to simply leave out the "of the list" at the end:

We'll go through the class list and start with the person at the top.

Since the first part of the sentence mentions the list, there is no need to repeat it at the end of the sentence.

That all said, it's important to note there is nothing inherently wrong with three consecutive prepositional phrases at the end of a sentence. As a matter of fact, more than one sentence in this answer does the same thing.

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  • I can't really imagine any native speaker in any context today referring to the person atop the list. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 28 '19 at 15:34
  • @Fumble - I agree, conversationally, it would be unusual. In a headline or subheadline, though, where space is at a premium? It's a useful word. – J.R. Aug 28 '19 at 15:45
  • I was going to say I thought atop was a very dated "literary" usage, but according to this NGram it's been steadily gaining traction for the past century andr more. Not sure what to make of that. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 28 '19 at 15:58
  • @Fumble - It still gets dwarfed by other phrasings, though, like on top of the list, or {at/on/from} the top of the list. At any rate, I was not recommending the usage of atop, I was merely pointing it out as a possible option. – J.R. Aug 28 '19 at 20:05
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    @FumbleFingers I would never personally say or write atop (there are many words I would never normally use), but it sounds fine when reading it in a sentence. – Jason Bassford Aug 29 '19 at 1:22

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