I have a question about what preposition to use with the phrase "make a delivery":

  1. The mailman made a delivery at the house.
  2. The mailman made a delivery to the house.

The justification for "make a delivery at" in sentence 1 is that the mailman had to arrive "at" the house to the make the delivery. So "make a delivery at" seems more correct than "make a delivery to". What do native speakers think?

  • Second option is correct. First one suggests that the mailman made the entire delivery at the house, i.e. the mailman received the mail to deliver and then delivered it. – Inazuma Apr 2 '16 at 1:11
  • 2
    Where did the postman make the delivery? He made the delivery at the house. Who the postman made the delivery to? He made the delivery to John. – Khan Apr 2 '16 at 4:53
  • I was right with you – until you said, "seems more correct than". As is so often the case with these pesky prepositions, one need not be "more correct" than the other. I think either could be used. – J.R. Apr 2 '16 at 10:06

The mailman made a delivery at the house.

The mailman made a delivery of something at a particular location and there was someone there to receive it, the act of delivering something happened at the house.

The mailman made a delivery to the house.
The mailman made a delivery to Mr. Jones.

The mailman dropped off the delivery at the house, possibly no one was there to receive it or possibly there was someone there, it is slightly ambiguous. Usually the recipient would be mentioned, the delivery was made to someone.

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  • I disagree with that last part, about "usually the recipient would be mentioned." Not necessarily so. The phrase "delivered something to the house" sounds like normal, idiomatic English to me. – J.R. Apr 2 '16 at 10:13
  • Grammatically, there is no recipient implied with at. There is a faint implication of a recipient with to. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 2 '16 at 11:03

As a native speaker of American English, with (reportedly) an above-average vocabulary and functional understanding, but a below-average technical knowledge of prescriptive grammar, "to" sounds more correct.

Additional background: I was born and raised in California, and now live in Oregon. I have some college, with two technical Associate's degrees, and my mother is a published author.

To my "ear", saying the delivery was made "at" the house defines a location that the transaction (handing over of a package, presumably) occurred, but is more vague about the intended destination. (We can assume the location and destination are the same, but it's an assumption.) But saying it was made "to" the house suggests that the specific house - and by extension, its implied residents - were collectively the intended destination of the package. It does leave ambiguous if any specific person has in fact received said delivery.

This may contradict others' interpretations, because even among native speakers language usage varies widely. And it may not follow a strict rule. But in the question's essence of: "which one sounds more correct to a native speaker?", that's my take on it. Both prepositions make assumptions, but the "to" variant sounds better to me.

As is common in both English in general, and in the nature of Native Speakers of any language, a small change to the initial sentence structure would alter my opinion, and make it more "native" in the process. "The mailman dropped a package at the house." The listener still makes an assumption that the house in question is one of principal interest to the speaker - the speaker's own house, or if not the same, perhaps the listener's own house - but using "to" here would feel quite wrong.

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