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Which preposition is considered to be natural in the following context?

The books arrived TO you.

or

The books arrived AT you.

My choice was the preposition 'to' in this context, but my corrector is now marking it as an error and suggesting me to replace it with 'at', and I'm not sure about it.

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  • Among other options, I think you can say "The books (have) arrived." (no object) or "The books have been/were delivered to you/your home." Mar 29 at 20:58
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    "For" is one of the few prepositions that would there (assuming you don't change the structure, as suggested in the answers), but we'd need a bit more context to know whether that would make sense for your purposes. It basically means it was addressed to you, and, unlike "at", often very specifically means you haven't actually gotten it yet (e.g. "The books arrived for you while you were out").
    – NotThatGuy
    Mar 30 at 8:15
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    Both sound very unnatural.
    – JBentley
    Mar 30 at 8:19
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    Both are unambiguously wrong. "Your books arrived" would be normal .
    – TonyK
    Mar 30 at 18:41
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    Interestingly, if the verb get had been used, the phrasing would have worked. The books got to you (in time)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 31 at 5:40
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The verb arrive means to reach a place at the end of a journey. Since it focuses on the end of the motion, not the whole motion from beginning to end, it doesn't work with "to [a destination]" as a modifier, the way you can say "go to your house", "walk to your house", "drive to your house", etc.

And since arrive suggests coming to a stop, the preposition at indicates the place or time where the journey ended. So, arrive at works by analogy with "I'll meet you at the park" (see this answer for more), "I'll meet you at 10:00", "This bus stops at Cuyahoga Street", etc., not by analogy with at for the target of a moving object, as in "Don't throw stones at a window" or "Watch out, the bus is coming right at you!"

When you say at with an object or person, like "a window" or "you", it sounds like you mean the target of motion—like throwing, suggesting a collision. So, you can't say "The books arrived at you." You have to rephrase so that the object of at is more clearly a place, like any of these:

The books arrived at your house.

The books arrived at your address.

The books arrived at your office.

The books arrived at your window. [This sounds natural because "your window" can also be understood as a place. This sentence suggests that the books were placed neatly in front of your window, or were handed to someone who received them through your window.]

The books arrived at your place.

The last one, "your place", is informal.

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    Thank you for the answer. Is "the books reached you" might be considered a good alternative? (As Colin Fine noted in his answer) Mar 30 at 13:47
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    To use to, you might go with something like "The books were delivered to you", implying a 3rd party. (Books can't deliver themselves after all.) Mar 30 at 14:39
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    " So, you can't say 'The books arrived at you'" Well, you could, but you're likely to hear "God bless you" in response
    – Kevin
    Mar 30 at 17:42
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    The books arrived at yours, meaning "the books arrived at your place" but being much less stilted Mar 30 at 20:52
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    @theonlygusti: I'm pretty sure the use of "yours" like that is a regional thing. Mar 31 at 0:03
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Neither.

You cannot arrive at or to a person, only at a location. You can arrive at my house, but not at me. To indicates direction, so you can travel to the station before you arrive at the station.

Colloquially, people say 'when you get to me', but arrive is more formal.

The preposition 'at' can be used for direction in the form 'throw a ball at me' (in my direction, with the intention of hitting me), vs 'throw a ball to me' (in my direction, with the intention of my catching it).

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  • You can arrive at a person if the person was an object, but like other people said, this would mean the books landed on you physically. ;O
    – oemb1905
    Mar 30 at 23:27
  • The question is about prepositions, but I thought you made an interesting point that the other answers don’t: “got to you” works here, albeit informally. I’d suggest highlighting that more in the answer
    – thehole
    Mar 31 at 3:04
  • Yes, thehole, and that's because "to arrive" and "to go" behave differently, not (in)formality. "… reached you…" is different again. Mar 31 at 13:36
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I would go with:

Your books arrived.

If you really want something close to your construction, then NotThatGuy's suggestion of "for" does work:

The books arrived for you.

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Neither. Arrive usually takes a place, not a person as its object.

The most natural expression would be

The books reach you.

If you want to use arrive, you could say

The books arrive with you.

But note that if you do so, with you is not a complement of arrive in the way that at the office or in London would be: arrive is being used intransitively, and with you is an adjunct, that gives optional additional information in the same way as on Tuesday in The books arrive on Tuesday.

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    +1 for "neither". I disagree about "arrive with you". That suggests that you arrive carrying the books, or that by chance they are delivered just as you arrive. Mar 29 at 20:43
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    @EthanBolker: it could indeed mean that. But as an adjunct, its relationship to the head is vague. I find "I've sent the book and it should arrive with you on Wednesday" clear and unremarkable.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 29 at 21:48
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    @ColinFine To me "it arrives with you" does not mean you are the recipient; it means you arrive simultaneously with it.
    – Peter
    Mar 29 at 22:26
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    "The books arrive at your location" is better in keeping the meaning of the sentence the same, if you must use the word "arrive". "The books arrive with you" means you and the books are together (with) and you will both arrive at the same time.
    – Edwin Buck
    Mar 30 at 0:33
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    I'm with Ethan - arrive with you is not usual English unless they actually arrive with you, because you are bringing them. We can expand the phrase as "The books are arriving/will arrive with you" - and with in this sentence doesn't normally just mean "at the same time", it means actually with you. Carried by you,in your bags, or similar. But never, ever, is it arrive "to" you.
    – Stilez
    Mar 30 at 7:43
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Arrive means reaching a destination place, and at reinforces that to mean a certain 'place'. Another definition of at indicates an implied action, like "He threw the package at you." which can be confusing. It would be ok to say "The book arrived at my house" or just "The book arrived."

To would be slightly better I think because its target can be a person, place, or thing. It also better matches the normal usage as in "I sent a book to you" and "The book was delivered to you." You wouldn't say "I sent a book at you". But again arrive implies a place, not a person.

A better word to use would be 'receive' which is meant for people to have things given to them or presented to them, as in "You received the book."

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