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What phone number will you be available at?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tomtombp, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    I'd like to ask someone on what number I can reach him while he's on vacation.

    My first thought of how to ask this was:

    "What phone number will you be available at?"

    but having no Goggle hits made me uncertain. I don't understand what's wrong with it.

    "What phone number will you be available on?" resulted in no Goggle hits either.

    Thanks,
     
  2. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    You can say What number can I get you on? Available when referring to people means something like at people's disposal. Are you available for a meeting on Thursday? Available when you're talking about goods generally means you can buy them in the shops. This new radio's good. It's available in the shops now. (The preposition is on and not at when you're talking about telephones.)
     
  3. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Thank you very much, rhitagawr. Is saying "I called her but she wasn't available" then incorrect too? As If I've heard that. Thanks.
     
  4. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    Your first sentence used reach, which is the usual word (together with get as suggested by rhitagawr).
    Using available at/on sounds terribly formal to me.

    "I called her but she wasn't available" is a sentence which means little without a context. It's not incorrect, but if I heard it, I would ask the person what was meant by not available.
     
  5. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    She wasn't available is fine. It means she was out, or in a meeting, or was unable to come to the phone for some other reason. It doesn't mean she hadn't got a phone or was unable to answer the phone on principle. It's reach him on.
    Cross-posted with e2efour. I suppose it would be rather impolite simply to say that someone was unavailable without giving a reason. If I were answering the phone, I'd say something like I'm afraid Mary's unavailable, she's having a meeting with the boss.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  6. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Got it! Thank you guys. Are you saying that "What number can I reach you on" and "What number can I get you on" are equally correct?
     
  7. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    My own preference is for reach, but get sounds just as idiomatic.
     
  8. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    Get is more colloquial but reach is just as good.
     
  9. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
  10. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
  11. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The link I provided mentions the word "over" - but in the context of " I talked to her over the phone for hours" but not "You can reach me over this number" - unless you are suggesting that possibility in Indian English?
     
  12. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    I am not suggesting. Just asking :)
     
  13. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    JulianStuart, thank you for pointing this out. It seems that I have to use different versions depending on whether I'm talking to a BrE or an AmE speaker.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  14. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Not really, Tom; you can use whichever form of English you're in the process of learning. We do understand one another, we just don't use the other expression. If a BrE speaker says, "You can reach me on _______" with a phone number, I'll know what's meant, even though I'd say "reach me at ________".
     
  15. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    I know. I just wanted to stress how different the two variants of English are.
     
  16. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    The US at has probably partly "moved" to the UK, where we are much more exposed to US films than the other way round. I now longer know whether I would use on or at without thinking. I no longer have a preference for either. One reason for this is that we are talking about prepositions, which are not generally used with much clarity.
    There is, of course, movement from the UK to the US, but whether it exists in the case we are discussing I have no idea. Probably not.
     
  17. grahamcracker Senior Member

    English-TEXAS
    In American English you can say, "How can I reach you?" or "Is there a number where I can reach you?"
     
  18. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I think Man_from_India makes a good point. I'd say
    1) I was on the phone for hours talking to Frank.
    2) Tom can't come to the door. He's on the phone.
    3) See if you can get him on the phone.
    I'd be very unlikely to say over when referring to the phone. I'd be more likely to say over when referring to the radio, although even then I'd be more likely to say on.
    4) The colonel talked to HQ on the phone.
    5) The colonel talked to HQ over/on the radio - that was their means of communication.
    6) He listened to the quiz on the radio - he listened to the program.
    Perhaps with radio, there's an idea of over the airwaves.
     
  19. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The example of "over" in post #11 from the thread linked above carried/emphasized the sense of "we used the phone as our means of communication" when we talked for hours , like your example 5) .
     
  20. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I'd probably say something like I can hardly understand his accent over the phone but I can hardly understand his accent when I'm talking to him on the phone. I suppose in the first sentence I'm talking about the noise I hear and in the second sentence I'm talking about the conversation I have with him. The difference is subtle even for me. There's probably no definite 'rule' for preferring on or over. But I'd suggest on is a lot more common, at least when you're talking about normal telephone conversations; there needs to be a special reason why you'd say over.
     
  21. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I completely agree. The point was mainly to illustrate that it is possible to use over in some situations, but one does not use it in place of on or at in answer to the OP's question.
     
  22. tomtombp Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Thanks everyone! It's just another thread I started and grew to multiple pages:)
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013

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