We met about 10:30

Does the sentence

seem grammatical to you?

Answers need not be limited to “yes” or “no.” Maybe you want to answer “okay, but strange,” or something else. That’s fine.


FTR: To me the sentence is only grammatical on the reading that has it meaning “We met to discuss the subject of 10:30.” But it’s hard to cook up a story where someone would actually say that, so my first impression is just that the sentence is a bad one. It seems to me that in order for the sentence to mean “We met, and the time of our meeting was 10:30,” it would need to be “We met at about 10:30.” But I’m suprised to discover over at Language Log that a lot of people think “We met at about 10:30” is bad and that the “at” should be omitted! To me, without “at,” the sentence barely even makes sense!

Also FTR: “We met about four years ago” seems fine to me, and “We met at about four years ago” would be wrong.


I’m no grammarian, but I think that’s because “about 10:30” is still a specific point in time, while “about four years ago” is a range of time.

So, “We met about 10:30” works as a casual, non-grammatical statement, but “We met at about 10:30” is grammatical. No idea what the rules are that make that true, though.

It works for me, but it does seem a bit awkward. Only because I like details. I want to know where you met. Grammatically, I like it well enough, though.

I’m fine with it. You could use at, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

I think it needs the at to be grammatically correct, but popular usage makes the sentence “feel” OK as is.

I’d feel more comfortable with either “We met at about 10:30” or “We met around 10:30”.

I think a sentence can be grammatically correct and still be ambiguous, which is how I would describe this sentence. I’d put in the “at” to be clearer.

Although I can’t say what the rules would make correct, I’d feel a lot better if the sentence read, “We met at approximately 10:30.”

Also, leaving the construction as originally posted, am I the only person who would be more comfortable using the word “around” instead of “about”?

Technically it should be “at about 10:30,” but the “at” is implicit and most native English speakers will subconsciously supply it when hearing this. For a question, such as “When did the meeting start,” almost everyone would say “about 10:30” rather than “at about 10:30.” However, if it were exactly 10:30 and the word “about” weren’t included, more folks would be likely to say “at 10:30.” And with the word “approximately” instead of “about,” most speakers would include the “at.” It’s a matter of usage.

“We met about 10:30” is grammatical for me.

People who say things like “Let’s meet about 10:25” make me want to scream.

On the other hand, if the subject of the meeting is the concept of 10:30…

Linguistics WAG:

About fills two roles:

About in the construction “about 10:30” or “about noonish” is, as best as I can figure, an adjective that’s only usable with measurements to indicate a lack of precision.

About also fills a preposition slot. I like to use the sentence “I ran ____ the mountain” to see if a word is a preposition, and “I ran about the mountain” (or even “I ran about the park”) works for me. It’s similar to ‘around’ but is used less often, I would guess.

Therefore, replacing the preposition ‘at’ with ‘about’ makes grammatical sense, particularly if about and around are synonymous in that context. “We met about 10:30” is acceptable but unusual to me, while “We met around 10:30” is clearer. It keeps the same denotation of lack of precision as when it’s used as an adjective; it’s simply that the syntactic role has changed.

It’s just one of those sentence constructions that allows for a language quirk to be highlighted, IMO.

Really, what sort of ditz would think that you were holding a meeting on the subject of 10:30? Unless it was previously understood that that is what you were doing, it would not be mistaken.

Ditto. I can’t really defend why “We met AT about 10:30” needs an “at” to me while “around 10:30” doesn’t, but, well, there you are.

What would not be mistaken?


I agree having “at” would be better.

But what really bothers me, perhaps because my background is journalism and not literature or grammar, is that I’m left wondering A.M or P.M.

A: When do you want to get together?

B: *Oh, let’s get together at about 3:00.

or let’s get together about 3:00.
The second is perfectly natural and acceptable English. Probably preferred by most native speakers. “About 3:00” is the same as saying “at 3:00,” just that the speaker doesn’t care that much if the meeting is exactly on the dot. It’s a question of affect.

There are no “grammar rules” for this kind of thing. It’s just a question of usage.

In any case, “about” isn’t an adjective, it’s a preposition. Saying “at about” is an unnecessary combination of prepositions, though it might be preferred in more formal speech.

Ditto. The construction in the OP grates a little on my ears, but probably not enough that I would notice in conversation. My instinct would be to use the “at” in conversation or the “around” construction.

Why use the word “about” at all?.

Am I the only one who uses the word “around” instead of “about” ?
Try these examples:
–We met yesterday around 10:30, and then when for a walk in the park.
–I’ll come visit you tomorrow around 10:30

Both these sentences seem more natural to me than “about”, although I would not crucify someone who prefers to use it.*

(The OP’s problem is that “about” can also mean “pertaining to the concept of…” But I think that is only true if the concept is a broad subject, not a specific number.
For example “The war in Iraq is about terrorism, not about oil”. But it doesn’t makes sense to say "The war is about 10:30 p.m.)

*gee, I’m such a nice guy :slight_smile:

Why use the word “below” instead of “beneath,” or “under,” for that matter.

English has some “overlapping” prepositions because it’s such a mongrel language. What about “over and above”?

It’s freedom of choice. Why do you hate choice?