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Which of the following is correct/appropriate ?

James went to Paris on an invitation from Eva.

James went to Paris at an invitation from Eva.

I feel they are both acceptable, but their meanings differ slightly. Is that so?

Note: the sentence that prompted my question is one from a Wikipedia article:

Joyce went to Paris in 1920 at an invitation from Ezra Pound...

  • Actually, I came across this line in a book, not on Wikipedia ! I went back and checked Wikipedia only after you mentioned it and I was surprised to find the same line in the Wiki article ! :-D – user33950 May 15 '16 at 9:29
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Use at the invitation of.

James went to Paris at the invitation of Eva.

Of course in such a short sentence that sounds rather formal. So I might use

James went to Paris at Eva's invitation.

The other phrases you mention are rarely used.

There are only five uses of 'at an invitation from' in all of Wikipedia.

By contrast, there are 2,756 uses of 'at the invitation of' in Wikipedia.

Using on, as in on an/the invitation from/of, does not sound natural.

This coincides with the results of the phrases displayed on Google Ngrams:

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This Joyce Wikipedia article was started in 2001 and the earliest appearance of the sentence you found is from this version, by user Dharmabum420 (probably a native speaker) dating from 15 December 2005, as

Joyce headed to Paris in 1920 at an invitation from Ezra Pound, supposedly for a week, but he ended up living there for the next twenty years.

Some people, even native speakers, use unidiomatic English.

  • Actually, I read it in a book not on Wikipedia !! I was surprised to find the same line in the Wikipedia article. :- D – user33950 May 15 '16 at 9:26
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To my ears, 'on an invitation' sounds like a relatively natural use of 'on' as 'because of / thanks to', following the pattern of 'on accident'. 'At an invitation' is very unnatural, and my mind keeps wanting to read it with 'at' marking a destination or location or something.

This is not because 'on' is correct and 'at' is wrong, though; it's because 'at... invitation' seems to need a possessive in there: '... at Eva's invitation' is 100% fine, and possibly the best way to phrase this. It's not quite the same as 'on', though, so you have two slightly different options for this sentence:

James went to Paris on Eva's invitation.

(We might or might not have known that she would invite him.)

James went to Paris on an invitation from Eva.

(We're just now learning that she invited him, and apparently the act of her inviting him wasn't important enough to mention.)

  • 1
    "At an invitation" sounds much more natural to me than "on an invitation". Note though that I don't live in one of the places where the phrase "on accident" is in common use, indeed "on accident" sounds quite wrong to me though I am starting to get used to hearing it on some American TV shows. But I would only ever say "by accident". (I do say "on purpose".) – nnnnnn May 15 '16 at 3:57
  • @ Sjiveru. Thank you for your comments. Yes, it sounded unnatural to me too. The actual sentence went like this: " Joyce went to Paris at an invitation from Ezra Pound ... ". Is "on an invitation" grammatically acceptable ? For instance, would it be OK if I use it in a book ? – user33950 May 15 '16 at 4:28
  • @ nnnnnn Yeah, I think 'on accident' is an Americanism on analogy with 'on purpose'; and that use of 'on' is starting to get extended to other causation uses. @ user33950 If you're writing a book, I might stay away from it just based on others' comments; I would never notice it but others might well. I'd say to use 'at X's invitation', rather than even 'at the/an invitation of /from X'. – Sjiveru May 15 '16 at 23:23

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