Laughing at vs. laughing with

Maybe you’ve heard the expression:

Are you laughing *at* me, or *with* me?

Considering that prepositions can be challenging (to say the least!), this phrase might be extra confusing for English learners. Here’s a quick look into what this means.

to laugh at

laughter directed toward a person or action; sometimes, laughing at someone can be considered rude (but not always)

The little boy tripped down the stairs and his schoolmates laughed at him. He was very sad. (They are being rude or cruel.)
I laugh at his jokes all the time. (This meaning is not rude or cruel, since jokes are meant to be funny.)

to laugh with

laughter in a group of people; laughing together with others about something everyone finds funny

They were laughing with me as I was trying tell the story.

So what does that original sentence mean?

“Are you laughing at me, or with me?”
“I don’t think you’re laughing *with* me…”

Usually, this means the speaker has done something funny…but maybe embarrassing. The major difference between the two is that “laughing with” means that everyone finds something funny, but “laughing at” means that everyone *except* the main person involved finds it funny, and the laughter is directed toward that person.

This is a friendly and lighthearted way to ask someone: Are you making fun of me? Are you laughing at my mistake/embarrassing moment?

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“33 Everyday English Expressions”

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