call (visit)

Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, everybody.

I know that there are several uses of the verb call -sometimes phrasal verbs- meaning visit. I'd like to know how current this use of call is nowadays because I was once told that it was quite old-fashioned.

I'm going to give you a few examples, all of them taken from different books and dictionaries:

1. I'll call by your house on my way to work.
2. He's calling for me at eight o'clock and we're going to go to the theatre (meaning collect here).
3. The doctor will call in again tomorrow to see that you're right.
4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon?
5. I thought we might call in on your mother on our way - I've got some magazines for her
6. The electrician must have called (round) this morning when we were out - there's a note on the door mat.

So, my questions are: Do you use them in normal conversation? Do they sound old-fashioned? Is this use equally AE and BE?

I was suggested to use the verb drop instead of call in these cases. Is this a sound piece of advice?

Thank you, Mr Bones.
 
  • chat9998

    Senior Member
    English, US
    Hi Mr. Bones,

    Here's what I think:

    1. I'll call by your house on my way to work. :tick:
    2. He's calling for me at eight o'clock and we're going to go to the theatre (meaning collect here). :cross: ("picking me up" would be better)
    3. The doctor will call in again tomorrow to see that you're right. :tick:
    4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon? :tick: (also possible: "count on you," with a similar meaning)
    5. I thought we might call in on your mother on our way - I've got some magazines for her. :cross: ("Drop in on", or just "visit")
    6. The electrician must have called [S](round)[/S] this morning when we were out - there's a note on the door mat. :tick: ("called around" would mean something different, and couldn't be used here. It would mean the electrician, "called many places.")
    I hope this helps!
    God bless,
    Jeff
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hi Mr. Bones,

    I agree this is rather old fashioned, although in some rural areas you still might here it.

    I'll follow Jeff's lead and comment on your specific examples as to how I understand this in AE usage.

    1. I'll call byyour house on my way to work. :cross:
    Option one: I'll call your house (which means I'll call you on the phone)
    Option two: I'll drop by/come by your house (I'll visit you at your house on my way to work.)

    2. He's calling for me at eight o'clock and we're going to go to the theatre (meaning collect here). :cross:
    If he's "calling for you" it means he is actually calling for you on the phone. It might mean he reaches you directly, or that he calls and lets someone else know that he is on his way.

    3. The doctor will call in again tomorrow to see that you're right. :cross: :tick:
    If you are a patient in a hospital, this may make sense and carry the meaning that the doctor will "drop by" and see you again tomorrow.

    If you are at home, the doctor (or a nurse) might just call you on the phone.

    House "calls," where the doctor visits the patient at home are a rarity, although they do still exist in some cities.

    4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon? :cross: :tick:
    I am most likely to hear this spoken by a door-to-door salesman or other similar solicitor, although it is still a rarity.

    5. I thought we might call in on your mother on our way - I've got some magazines for her :tick: This makes sense and is equal to "drop in on."
    Usage note: "drop in on your mother," "drop by your mother's place"

    6. The electrician must have called (round) this morning when we were out - there's a note on the door mat. :tick: You still might hear this in small towns and/or rural areas, but it has largely been replaced by "dropped by."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello Mr Bones - I think you have hit on a major AE/BE difference here because I am going to disagree with Jen and Jeff:D

    1. I'll call by your house on my way to work.
    OK - entirely normal and common, means I'll be there in person.
    I'll call your house - is different, that means a phone call.

    2. He's calling for me at eight o'clock and we're going to go to the theatre (meaning collect here).
    OK - entirely normal and common. Definitely means that he is coming in person, not phoning.

    3. The doctor will call in again tomorrow to see that you're right.
    OK - the use of call is fine, in fact call without in could mean that the doctor was going to visit, not phone, in this context, but only if he had already been there in person. I'd quibble with the "... that you're right," -> "... that you're OK," would be OK.

    4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon?
    OK, but a little formal.
    Call with would be better.

    5. I thought we might call in on your mother on our way - I've got some magazines for her.
    OK

    6. The electrician must have called (round) this morning when we were out - there's a note on the door mat.
    OK, with or without round.


    You could use drop instead of call in 1, 3, 5. It would be difficult to re-structure the others to make drop OK.
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Hello, Chat, Genjen and Panj.

    Wow! This is an amazing conversation, at least for me! I love all these differences between AE and BE and I'd like to add a couple of things.

    I found Genjen's information about the rural use call very interesting. In fact, the first time I learned about was in a William Faulkner's story and I couldn't make head nor tail of it because I had never seen it before (there's nothing strange about it, in any case, I'm Spanish). I’m going to give you some examples from that story (extraordinary, by the way; you want to read it if you haven’t yet):

    They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. (…) The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. (…) The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily's people were Episcopal—to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview… (A rose for Emily, William Faulkner)

    The story has an obvious rural flavour about it, and maybe this use of call reflects if well. Do you agree?

    As for the rest of the examples, the sources I used are mainly BE –including the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (on line)-, and I guess that’s why Panj considers them to be entirely normal and common English. The guy who told me to substitute call for drop is Australian and have lived many years in London, however.

    About Panj’s answer, I have a couple of further questions: 1) I don’t understand what would be better in point 4. Can you give me an example; and 2) Can’t you say drop round (point 6)? I found this example: I’m just going to drop round to Mum’s to see if she’s ok (Phrasal Verbs. Dictionary English-Spanish. Ed. Vox).

    Well, I’m going to bed. See you and thank you again. Mr Bones.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hi Mr. Bones,

    I meant to post a link to THIS thread earlier, which you may find interesting.

    I find Faulkner's use of "call upon" with the preacher very interesting. Generally, when you "call upon" someone you are asking them to do something, or are making demands on them, and this is used often in a religious context.

    I've been called upon (by God) to dedicate my life to the poor.

    Preacher
    : I call upon you to give your soul over to Christ and to heed his words.
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    1. I'll call by your house on my way to work.
    OK - entirely normal and common, means I'll be there in person.
    I'll call your house - is different, that means a phone call.
    If a mate told me "I'll call your house on my way to work." I'd definitely be expecting a phone call from him, whereas if he told me " I'll call by your house on my way to work." I'd be expecting his buzzing at the door.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    Hello, everybody.

    I know that there are several uses of the verb call -sometimes phrasal verbs- meaning visit. I'd like to know how current this use of call is nowadays because I was once told that it was quite old-fashioned.

    I'm going to give you a few examples, all of them taken from different books and dictionaries:

    1. I'll call by your house on my way to work.
    2. He's calling for me at eight o'clock and we're going to go to the theatre (meaning collect here).
    3. The doctor will call in again tomorrow to see that you're right.
    4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon?
    5. I thought we might call in on your mother on our way - I've got some magazines for her
    6. The electrician must have called (round) this morning when we were out - there's a note on the door mat.

    So, my questions are: Do you use them in normal conversation? Do they sound old-fashioned? Is this use equally AE and BE?

    I was suggested to use the verb drop instead of call in these cases. Is this a sound piece of advice?

    Thank you, Mr Bones.
    For me, all these usages seem perfectly correct, despite foregoing comments and corrections. I think this may simply boil down to BE/AE differences.

    In general, I would say use call when in doubt. If there is an option, e.g. between 'call by' and 'drop by', 'call by for' and 'pick up', or even 'call' and 'telephone', I would always choose 'call', since it is standard and the other versions could be considered familiar or even slang. 'Drop by' is definitely familiar, whereas 'pick up' has connotations of taking someone out on a date (and then back to your place for...).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Further comment in this curious and fascinating thread ...
    [...]I have a couple of further questions: 1) I don’t understand what would be better in point 4. Can you give me an example;
    Either version of (4) would be more or less the same. Call on is quite formal, call with is a bit less so.
    2) Can’t you say drop round (point 6)? I found this example: I’m just going to drop round to Mum’s to see if she’s ok (Phrasal Verbs. Dictionary English-Spanish. Ed. Vox).
    That would be perfectly OK. You might drop round, and so might the electricians. But somehow there is a difference between drop round and call round. I think drop round is a social event, call round is an official visit.

    This is a very in-exact analysis - others may completely disagree.
     

    Trina

    Senior Member
    Australia (English)
    [...]
    4. May I call on you tomorrow afternoon?
    OK, but a little formal.
    Call with would be better.[...]
    Just a note from an AE (Aussie English);) speaker...
    I am in total agreement with Panjandrum with the only exception being : May I call with you tomorrow afternoon? "call with" is not used in Australia.
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think Paulfromitaly has put his finger on the reason the usage seems old fashioned: it has become ambiguous, due to the telephone. Could the apparent AE/BE difference be due to the use of "ring" instead of "call" for phone calls in BE? Or is that usage a myth from the movies (sorry, cinema:D)?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think Paulfromitaly has put his finger on the reason the usage seems old fashioned: it has become ambiguous, due to the telephone. Could the apparent AE/BE difference be due to the use of "ring" instead of "call" for phone calls in BE? Or is that usage a myth from the movies (sorry, cinema:D)?
    By now, even in my part of the UK, call me means phone me (see my comments above). If nothing else, this could be laid at the door of the mobile, mobile phone (cellphone:D ) that insists on having a call register that lists missed calls.

    That's why the preposition in call <preposition> is the key to identifying a visit rather than a phone-call.
     
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