access to shared bikes is just a mobile phone away

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
Hi. If I want to say “people can use shared bikes at any time with the help of just a mobile phone”, is it natural to say “access to shared bikes is just a mobile phone away”?

Thank you.
 
  • Dryan

    Senior Member
    English - Northeastern U.S.
    I wouldn't say that.
    My personal experience is that the noun in the phrase "just a _ away" is necessarily based on a verb.

    If you need to text to activate the bike you could say "Just a text away!"
    If you need to call to activate the bike you could say "Just a phone call away!"
    If you need to tap an NFC chip to activate the bike you could say "Just a tap away!"

    The point here for me is that the noun in this phrase is directly based off of a verb infinitive. You can't use any noun.
     
    Last edited:

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I agree. The standard advertising phrase is "is just a <quick action> away". That means "in the time it takes to do this quick action, you can have the thing you want". The whole point of the "just" phrase is "you can get this quickly". It answers the question "How far away (in time) is this thing that I want?"

    I don't know what "is just an <object> away" means, but it does not mean "just a short time away".
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you very much for letting me know that “rule”. The way to activate a shared bike is to scan its QR code with a mobile phone to unlock the bike. So can I say “access to shared bikes is just a scan away”?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Yes, that sounds good. It is a clever way to say "access takes only a few seconds", which is valuable info.

    Note: China is way ahead of the US, in the area of "paying for things by scanning a QR code". I think it is still uncommon in the US, but (based on what I've seen in videos online) it is very common in China.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    My personal experience is that the noun in the phrase "just a _ away" is necessarily based on a verb.
    The standard advertising phrase is "is just a <quick action> away".
    Hi. I have just found an example which seems to break this rule.
    I know most of our operatives haven’t been trained in the soft touch, and I’ll be blunt: the last thing we need is somebody thinking this is Afghanistan and smacking a civilian around. We’re one YouTube video away from this whole thing blowing up in our faces, so we have to maintain our operational profile throughout.
    Lifeboat Document
    The bold part is not a quick action. So why does this example work?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    This is not an advertisement for a product. Our advice in this thread is only about advertising a product. It is not a "rule for all English sentences".

    In this example the phrase "one YouTube video" means an event. Specificially it means:

    "someone posting one YouTube video that shows our operatives abusing a civilian".

    It means all of that, and only that. It does not many an object (a YouTube video). There are millions of those, and thousands of new ones every day, and none of them will cause "this whole thing blowing up in our faces".
     
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