I have a question about the correct preposition to use with "show up" here:

The 48 immigrants thought they were attending mandatory safety training by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But it was not until they showed up to the meeting in Goldsboro, N.C., last week that they discovered they had been summoned for an altogether different reason.

How is "show up to a meeting" different from "show up at a meeting"?

  • I came across this sentence in the three-part BBC drama Mrs. Wilson: “You turned up uninvited TO my husband’s funeral”. I would have used AT, but my mind sometimes boggles at the illogical vagaries of the English language. – DOMINGO ABRANTE Dec 6 '18 at 8:59

The two phrases imply slightly different things.

If my coworker showed up to the meeting, then he was probably supposed to be there; I had been expecting him. However, if my coworker showed up at the meeting, then it was likely more unexpected. Either he wasn't invited, or maybe he was invited but usually doesn't show up to meetings, so there is an element of surprise there.

However, I will say that these are very fine differences. In general, you can use either "at" or "to" and be fine.

The only time I'd say that you have to use one over the other is if you have a verb. "He showed up to play." You definitely couldn't say "he showed up at play."

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  • they might do in theory, but in practice there is no difference to most speakers (UK) – WendyG Dec 6 '18 at 10:28

Generally you show up AT a location or event. You show up TO do something. "They showed up at the tournament" "They showed up to compete" You can get away with "They showed up to the tournament", as that usage is not uncommon. But "at a purpose" would never work.

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