For these two sentences:

  1. He spoke at the microphone.
  2. He spoke into the microphone.

, are they the same, or is one more poetic than the other?


2 Answers 2

  1. The ordinary idiom is 'speak into the microphone'. Occasionally you will find a voice professional or sound engineer talk about 'speaking across the mic' (which is a technique for avoiding 'pop' or for dealing with an unusual mic setup) or encouraging an amateur to 'speak to the mic', meaning to speak as if the mic were a human listener. 'Speak at the mic' addresses the position at which the speaker stands.

  2. In contemporary English 'poetic' is not usually a desirable stylistic quality. When ordinary people today speak of 'poetic' language what they usually have in mind is language marked by a high degree of sonic patterning, by conventional metaphor, and by a highly emotional tone. But English poetry itself abandoned the use of a distinctly 'poetic' diction more than a century ago, and this sort of language is now generally regarded as self-indulgent or meretricious. When sophisticated critics speak approvingly of 'poetic' qualities they are more likely to mean that a passage is intellectually and emotionally complex and suggests far more than it explicitly says.

  • 1
    To me, 'speak at the microphone' sounds like a public meeting. The guest speaker speaks, then the mc invites questions from the audience. One audience member has a loud voice and can be heard by everyone. Another has a soft voice and the mc invites him to come to the front and speak at the microphone.
    – Sydney
    Sep 26, 2014 at 23:44
  • @SydneyAustraliaESLTeacher A very good point I should not have overlooked. Sep 27, 2014 at 0:30
  • Just like @SydneyAustraliaESLTeacher , I also feel that "speak at the microphone" sounds like a public meeting, and more specifically, sounds like "speak at the podium" where there might not be a podium, or the podium has a microphone. Sep 27, 2014 at 3:50
  • I think native speakers can infer what speak at the microphone (might) mean, but it's not an expression we would actually use. Go up to the mic/podium and speak, or Use the mic to speak, or Speak with a/the mic might be more idiomatic.
    – user6951
    Sep 27, 2014 at 15:37

1. This is NOT common. It sounds like it could mean either:
a) He spoke towards the microphone
b) He spoke being in the location of the microphone.

2. This IS common. This means:
He spoke projecting his voice towards the inside of the microphone(which is where sound is processed in the microphone).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .