"On the border" or "At the border"

hello guys!

I'm really desperate! I'm austrian and I'm studying translation & interpretingin spanish and english in Vienna and I recently took a test for "testing" english skills. It was my second try and I have two more chances to pass. The thing is that I failed my test because of 1 point. There were many chances I have missed and where I could have paid more attention except for one:

One of the tasks from the exam states: "Read the following text carefully. It contains a total of 25 mistakes (no more than one mistake per line), including punctuation. Mark the mistakes and write down the correct version or add the missing word in the right column. A mistake in the text may also be a superfluous letter/word. You don't need to change the word order. If there is no mistake in a given line, write "no mistake" in the right column (no more than five times, otherwise one point will be deducted from your total score for each additional "no mistake").

Our professor for this exam takes any news article from any source and adds the mistakes. Obviously one does not know which article will be selected so you neither know the writing style of the author nor the topic. So she chose an article about North- and South Korean relations (Link: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/kim-jong-un-donald-trump-north-korea-us-summit-washington-pyeongchang-americas-asia-a8299906.html

One line in the article says: "While the summit on April 27th between North Korean (sic!: South) president Moon Jae-in and Mr. Kim is expected to be held at the truced village of Panmunjom on the border (...)."

During the test without overthinking I marked the "on" of "on the border as a mistake because my english common sense told me that one does not say "on the border" but "at the border". The thing is she marked it as wrong because "on the border" is not an error so I shouldn't have marked it as such. Paradoxically "North (sic!) Korean president Moon Jae-in (...)" as it stands is "true" too. So she told me "on the border" is a grammatical error and "North (sic!) Korean" is a contentwise error. In my opinion there IS a difference in context if one says "on the border" or "at the border" because both mean a difference in location. She also told me that I was looking for synonyms, which I wasn't because for me it was clear that one does not say "ON THE BORDER"!

Now I ask you: Should she have given me the point or not? Please consider the task's description and tell me if this explains her issue for not giving me the point.

Also, would you have marked it as a "mistake" or would it for you be "acceptable".

To me personally it just doesn't sound correct. 

This whole issue drives me crazy because I really don't feel like this error is justifiable... 

I'm very curious what you have to say. 

Thanking you in anticipation :)

Jun 6, 2018 6:39 PM
Comments · 9


And whilst learning and gathering more and more vocabulary, you kind of get insecure and might start overcorrecting which is my case.”

This is exactly what you need to work on. Overcorrecting is bad. I studied editing in university, and we sometimes lost marks for overcorrecting, so instead of just getting 0, we actually got -1 for something we overcorrected. This is because knowing when something is correct is really important.

Editors sometimes have a habit of being heavy-handed and correcting something that’s not wrong, and it’s a bad habit to have. Imagine you’re editing a writer’s work and you correct something that wasn’t wrong to begin with. It doesn’t come off well. No one likes being overcorrected.

June 8, 2018

You’re missing the point of the question. It’s asking about grammar, not content. You need to find the errors in grammar. You marked something that’s grammatically correct, and therefore you lost a mark. You’re being penalized for overcorrecting, not for not knowing where the village was. You weren’t asked about the location of the village.

Here’s another way of looking at the situation: You say that your English isn’t bad, and I agree that it isn’t, but if your success or failure rests on this one mark, then there’s surely a lot of room for improvement. Even if you were to get this mark and pass the test, your grade would be minimal and there would still be a lot of room for improvement. Instead of focusing on this one mark, focus on how to improve overall. Don’t just focus on passing the test.

June 7, 2018


Su.Ki. is spot on.

Just a general tip. Be more open to other possibilities. A language is a massive living thing and you will always come across stuff that challenges your current knowledge.

For example, I had a student who argued with me about the word 'yet'.

He saw this: "I didn't agree with him, yet I was prepared to reconsider my position if he could find a more convincing argument".

He said 'yet' was wrong because it was only used in the present perfect tense (eg 'he hasn't finished yet')

So I asked him to look at the sentence and, assuming yet was used correctly, work out the meaning from the context.

Now he knows that 'yet' can also mean 'but'.   :-)

June 6, 2018

"On the border" is not a grammatical error. This is what it says in the Independent article, and it is correct.

When you are giving fixed geographical locations,  it is normal to say "on the border". For example, "Town x is located on the border between Country A and Country B" . We say "on" because this place is located directly on a line, either real or imaginary.  Imagine putting a pin on a line in a map. Or look on youtube for a classic Al Stewart song from the 1970s, if you'd like to hear this phrase set to music.

It is possible to say "at the border", but this is slightly different. We use 'at' for a point or stage on a journey, so you might say that somebody was stopped at the border when they were trying to cross between two countries. Perhaps it was this usage you were thinking of when you thought that 'on' was a mistake?

June 6, 2018

@Lorenz - "on" is clearly correct, in fact it's much more common to hear "on the border" than "at the border" imo. So without a doubt, the teacher dealt with you fairly.

But I think you should continue to argue with your teacher about it, and continue defending yourself here. You're passionate about it, and it's great for practicing your English.

June 7, 2018
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