be busy with a patient

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keramus

Senior Member
Persian
Hello everyone

Rob is a doctor and he's examining a patient right now. His wife calls him and his secretary answers the phone.
The secretary says to Rob's wife:
Sorry, he can't talk right now. He's busy with a patient.

Does the highlighted part sound natural in this context?

Please tell me your opinion.
 
  • Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Sorry, he can't talk right now. He's busy with a patient.

    It's fine, but I think we'd be more likely to say just "He's with a patient."
    I think "busy" adds something to the statement.
    "He's with a patient" but maybe he'll accept a phone call vs. "He's busy with a patient" and cannot be disturbed.

    Compare :
    He's in the kitchen --> maybe he just went to get a glass of water,
    He's busy in the kitchen --> he's cooking / he'll be in there for a while.
    .
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think "busy" adds something to the statement.
    "He's with a patient" but maybe he'll accept a phone call vs. "He's busy with a patient" and cannot be disturbed.

    Compare :
    He's in the kitchen --> maybe he just went to get a glass of water,
    He's busy in the kitchen --> he's cooking / he'll be in there for a while.
    .
    But that's not really comparable, because for a doctor, being "with a patient" is itself an activity; we understand that the doctor isn't just present in the other room making small talk. To me, "busy with a patient" suggests "too busy to talk to you." It's accurate enough, but it might come across as too blunt.
     

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    we understand that the doctor isn't just present in the other room making small talk
    That's the very point I'm making. My doctors, over the years, have often had a bit of a chat during appointments -- part of "knowing your patient", I guess -- but would comfortably interrupt it for an incoming phone call.
    "Busy" suggests that he's actually doing something, probably diagnostic or therapeutic, and is not willing to be interrupted.
    .
     
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