I know there is this idiomatic phrase "at a loss for words", but how do you use is for something other than "words"?

"I was at a loss for what to do."


"I was at a loss of what to do."

I'm not sure if even either one is correct, though. Can you use "at a loss..." for something other than words?

Also, what is the difference between the sentences below?

"I'm lost at what to do."


"I'm lost on what to do."

  • 2
    Maybe "I'm at a loss about what to do" or "I'm at a loss as to what to do". The final two sentences you ask about differ only in at & on: they're both unnatural & not idiomatic English.
    – user264
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 3:08
  • The "as to what to do"? answer seems symptomatic of a tendency that plagues writing today - to load prose with unnecessary prepositions.
    – user4829
    Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


This is an area where usage has gradually changed. Historically, the preference was not to use any preposition at all between at a loss and what to do. But increasingly people now insert one of various alternatives including as to, for, over, regarding, to know, etc. And if this NGram is to be believed, the first of those is now the most common form...

enter image description here

There's no grammatical rule involved here - just idiomatic "custom and practice". Personally, I don't find any of OP's suggested of, at, or on acceptable, but all the alternatives graphed above seem at least "credible" to me (though like most people, I would normally use as to in this exact context).

  • Do you think that this is acceptable? "I am at a loss as IF to enroll or not". "I am at a loss as WHETHER to enroll or not"
    – E.V.
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 9:24
  • 1
    @E.V.: You can't use if there. The idiomatic standard is I am at a loss as to whether to enrol or not. There are actually 9 written instances of at a loss as whether in Google Books, but it certainly doesn't sound good to my ear, and you have to compare that to an estimated 1,140 results for at a loss as to whether. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 13:09
  • Ok, so I should say ""I am at a loss as to WHETHER to enroll or not". Thanks!
    – E.V.
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 14:28

Your sentence is similar to "I am at a loss what to do next." In your case, you should say "I was at a loss what to do."

  • Oh, so it's actually pretty simple. How about Bill's "I'm at a loss as to what to do"?
    – jess
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 12:00

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