Thursday’s verdict will be a reminder of the scale of the killings – some 100,000 people died in Bosnia alone, with other victims in Croatia and Kosovo – and of the glacial pace at which justice has arrived.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/22/the-hunt-for-radovan-karadzic-ruthless-warlord-turned-spiritual-healer

I have a question regarding the usage of the preposition "at" before "which justice". I pressume that the author wants to say it lasted very long time before justice has realized. But I do not understand why "glacial pace at which" is used. Glacial pace is something like extremely slow speed so I would use "glacial pace by which justice has arrived". In the original sentence it is suggested that glacial pace is some kind of a place. Can you explain to me what's wrong with my consideration?

1 Answer 1


At first I was struggling with "arrive by" versus "arrive at" too. Then I realised "at" is not actually attached to "arrive" but rather to "pace".

English uses "at x pace" (like speed).

At snail's pace

At a rapid pace

So if we re-order the difficult part of the sentence we get:

Justice has arrived at [a] glacial pace.

So, "at a glacial pace" works as an adverbial describing how justice arrived.

To reaffirm your understanding of "arrive by" and "arrive at", I think you have it quite nicely.

Arrive by (normally the means of arriving).

Arrive by car

Arrive by train

Arrive at (a place)

He arrived at his home

  • 2
    I agree with all of this. I would add that in my opinion, a problem with this sentence is that the word "arrived" brings to my mind the very last step of a journey, while "glacial pace" refers to the entire journey in this case. But I don't have a better word in mind to use in place of "arrived'.
    – David K
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:33
  • To amplify this answer, the "at" belongs to the pace, not the arrival of justice.
    – Tom B
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 16:12
  • @TomB Did I not say that in my second sentence?
    – JMB
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 18:33
  • 3
    @DavidK: really? As a native speaker, I found the sentence absolutely fine — I didn’t feel any ambiguity or awkwardness in it at all, and had no idea what the difficulty in it was going to be until I’d read the rest of the question.
    – PLL
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 20:35
  • @PLL: Same here, and yet, I agree with David K: I didn't notice the problem myself, but now that it's pointed out, I agree that (for example) "arriving slowly" means that the arrival is slow, not that there's been a long delay before the arrival.
    – ruakh
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 0:11

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