Silence / Mute a phone

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A-friend

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
Hello everyone

I wonder how do the two adjectives/verbs "silent/silence" and "mute" differ in meaning when it comes to a mobile phone when you want to disable its sounds?

For instance, please let me know how the following sentences differ in meaning using each word:

Let's say you are in an exam hall where people are sitting to fill in their questionaries. The examiner comes to you all and says:

1.a. Make your phones silent.
1.b. Silence your phones.
1.c. Mute your phones.

And one as an answer can say:

2.a. My phone is silent.
2.b. My phone is silenced.
2.c. My phone is mute.
2.d. My phone is muted.
2.e. My phone is on mute.

I wonder if you could help me with the three words "silent", "silence" and "mute".
Thank you.
 
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  • A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    "Please set your phones on silent mode."
    Well, heypresto, first of all, I was not going to find out the best possible (perhaps formal) way to say it.
    Then, I needed to know the difference between the three words and discover their usages.
    Also, you forgot to provide me with some explanation regarding:

    1.a. Make your phones silent.
    1.b. Silence your phones.
    1.c. Mute your phones.

    whether they are right or wrong (either grammatically or semantically.)

    Finally, please do me a favor and let me know about the answer part. I mean:

    2.a. My phone is silent.
    2.b. My phone is silenced.
    2.c. My phone is mute.
    2.d. My phone is muted.
    2.e. My phone is on mute.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    1.a. Make your phones silent.
    1.b. Silence your phones.
    1.c. Mute your phones.
    These are all grammatically fine, but they don't sound very likely as instructions in your context.

    Of your suggested answers, 2e sounds OK.

    But in reality, if anybody answered "Please set your phones on silent mode" at all, they are likely to just say 'OK'.


    Of course, the best thing to do is ban mobile phones from the exam room altogether. You know what student's are like, they'll just use them to cheat. :D
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    These are all grammatically fine, but they don't sound very likely as instructions in your context.

    Of your suggested answers, 2e sounds OK.

    But in reality, if anybody answered "Please set your phones on silent mode" at all, they are likely to just say 'OK'.


    Of course, the best thing to do is ban mobile phones from the exam room altogether. You know what student's are like, they'll just use them to cheat. :D
    :D I see heypresto. You're right.
    Just, I think as you mentioned: "they don't sound very likely as instructions in your context", perhaps I need to ask you about them in another context too.
    Please assume a couple are entering a cinema. The wife says her husband:

    1.a. Make your phones silent.
    1.b. Silence your phones.
    1.c. Mute your phones.

    I wonder again these are not so likely to be said and she should say:

    - Set your phone on silent mode.
    ?
    -------
    Also, regarding the second part, please imagine the examiner asks a student whether their phone is silent or not. That was the image in my mind when I combined these two questions under the same scenario. The question is that why one can say: "my phone is on mute", but saying" "mute your phone" doesn't sound natural?
    Why one cannot say:
    - My phone is silent?
    or
    Silence your phone.
    ?
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Silence refers to the lack/absence of noise
    Mute means unable to make a noise.
    But "silence" is a verb too.
    Also, why you say:
    - My phone is on mute.
    In a natural English, but you don't say:
    - Mute your phone
    or
    - Put your phone on mute.
    or
    - Make your phone mute/muted.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think in most informal situations, like a wife talking to her husband, (or vice versa) on their way into a theatre, would say 'Switch your phone/ringtone off' or 'Have you switched your phone/ringtone off?'

    I think it unlikely that we would use 'mute' or 'silence' as verbs in this context. And we don't talk about phones being 'muted' or 'silent'.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Used as verbs, they suggest that your phone is currently making a noise that should be stopped, not that you should put it into the mode that prevents it from making a noise in the future.
    "Mute" is more often used for temporarily stopping the sound when using a phone as a speakerphone.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I would say either of those.

    Yes, I was rather hoping you could work the rest out for yourself. :)
    Thank you Paul :)
    So do the sentences below mean the same?
    - My phone is muted.
    - My phone is on mute.
    - My phone is silent.
    - My phone is on silent mode.
    Are they all idiomatic and natural?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    So do the sentences below mean the same?
    Long answer:
    True synonyms are very rare in English. Synonymous clauses are even rarer.

    Note also that "to mute" can also mean to lower the tone/volume of something - it can also be used figuratively.
    "Following his sudden death, the atmosphere in the house became muted."
    The colours in this room are garish! They need to be muted shades and fewer of them."

    As a generality, your sentences
    1 - My phone is muted. -> muted = adjective - (i) which has been prevented from making a noise or it's volume has been reduced to a very low level. (ii) has been placed in a state in which the person calling can be heard but he cannot hear the owner of the phone that is "on mute".
    2 - My phone is on mute. -> on mute = Adjectival phrase implying that there is some way of causing the phone not to make sound. (ii) See above.
    3 - My phone is silent. -> I cannot comment on this: there is simply not enough context.
    4 - My phone is on silent mode. -> "on silent mode" Adjectival phrase implying that there is a state in which the phone will not make sound and that is its present state.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Where I come from, the mute setting on phones is used during phone calls. If you are speaking with someone and "put your phone on mute" it blocks the other person from hearing what you are saying, or what anyone standing there with you is saying to you. It prevents sound at the other end, not your end.

    If you don't want your phone to make noise, you would either turn the ringer off, turn the volume down or put it in vibrate mode. (If vibrate mode is not too loud itself.)
     

    Erebos12345

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I think I hear put your phones on "silent" or put your phones on "do not disturb" or put your phones on "vibrate" the most. I mean, your phone will still make noise when it's on vibrate. You've only turned off the ringer.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Where I come from, the mute setting on phones is used during phone calls. If you are speaking with someone and "put your phone on mute" it blocks the other person from hearing what you are saying, or what anyone standing there with you is saying to you. It prevents sound at the other end, not your end.

    If you don't want your phone to make noise, you would either turn the ringer off, turn the volume down or put it in vibrate mode. (If vibrate mode is not too loud itself.)
    But even the American-based iPhones have the icons named "mute/unmute"!

    I think I hear put your phones on "silent" or put your phones on "do not disturb" or put your phones on "vibrate" the most. I mean, your phone will still make noise when it's on vibrate. You've only turned off the ringer.
    What's the difference between:
    - Turn the ringer off.
    and
    - Put your phone on silent mode.
    and
    - Put your phone on mute.
    ?

    As a generality, your sentences
    1 - My phone is muted. -> muted = adjective - (i) which has been prevented from making a noise or it's volume has been reduced to a very low level. (ii) has been placed in a state in which the person calling can be heard but he cannot hear the owner of the phone that is "on mute".
    2 - My phone is on mute. -> on mute = Adjectival phrase implying that there is some way of causing the phone not to make sound. (ii) See above.
    3 - My phone is silent. -> I cannot comment on this: there is simply not enough context.
    4 - My phone is on silent mode. -> "on silent mode" Adjectival phrase implying that there is a state in which the phone will not make sound and that is its present state.
    If you don't mind my saying so, unfortunately I didn't realize whether my four sentences work or they are unnatural. I think in spite of "my phone is silent" which seems to be vague to you, the other three variants are possible and if I'm not mistaken they all mean the same thing and interchangeable in this sense. Do you confirm?
    Also, I don't understand whether saying: "my phone is mute" is correct or saying: "my phone is muted." To me, they both mean equally the same thing and can be used interchangeably in the sense when one wants to imply that their phone ringer sound is off and would not disturb. Do you agree Paul?
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    If the verb is "set" or "switch", I'd use "to silent mode" or just "to silent" (omitting "mode")
    After "put", I'd use "on silent" (without "mode"), or "into silent mode". I don't think I'd use "in".
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    All I ever hear is, "Please turn off your phones."
    Thank you Packard. :)
    But what shall I ask someone when I want they put their phones on silent mode in natural everyday speech in AE (if I don't want they switch off their phones)?
    And what the person can tell me back if their phone is already on silent mode? ;)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Thank you Packard. :)
    But what shall I ask someone when I want they put their phones on silent mode in natural everyday speech in AE (if I don't want they switch off their phones)?
    And what the person can tell me back if their phone is already on silent mode? ;)
    As a rule the speaker only cares about interruptions, and does not care that you miss calls. So they say “turn off your phones”. Then the phone owner decides if to go to silent mode or to actually turn off their phones.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    As a rule the speaker only cares about interruptions, and does not care that you miss calls. So they say “turn off your phones”. Then the phone owner decides if to go to silent mode or to actually turn off their phones.
    So turn off has two meanings; right?
    1. Its denotation: switch it off
    2. Its metaphorical meaning (connotation,) which is: "put your phone on silent mode". Right?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    As a rule the speaker only cares about interruptions, and does not care that you miss calls. So they say “turn off your phones”. Then the phone owner decides if to go to silent mode or to actually turn off their phones.
    I agree with all your posts.:)

    If someone says that to me I either put my phone on mute or I turn it off or, if I'm on a plane, I put it in flight mode/turn it off.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    So turn off has two meanings; right?
    1. Its denotation: switch it off
    2. Its metaphorical meaning (connotation,) which is: "put your phone on silent mode". Right?
    The speaker is trying to accomplish one thing only: No interruptions.

    The cell phone owner then makes an informed decision on how to accomplish that.

    A notable exception is in hospitals where "cell phones off" means exactly that. They are concerned that the cell phones will cause interference with delicate and life-saving equipment. "Cell phones must be turned off" in a hospital is not open to interpretation.

     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    The speaker is trying to accomplish one thing only: No interruptions.

    The cell phone owner then makes an informed decision on how to accomplish that.

    A notable exception is in hospitals where "cell phones off" means exactly that. They are concerned that the cell phones will cause interference with delicate and life-saving equipment. "Cell phones must be turned off" in a hospital is not open to interpretation.

    Excellent. But let's suppose I am entering a movie theater and the person who is checking the tickets and routs people, says, please turn off your phones; (here in Iran we have such a system in movies.)
    Of course one has their own choice to either switch it off or just put it on silent mode; but let's say your friend says:
    - Is your phone off.
    You say:
    No, my phone is on mute/silent/etc.
    I was wondering what would an American normally say to their friend in this sense?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Excellent. But let's suppose I am entering a movie theater and the person who is checking the tickets and routs people, says, please turn off your phones; (here in Iran we have such a system in movies.)
    Of course one has their own choice to either switch it off or just put it on silent mode; but let's say your friend says:
    - Is your phone off.
    You say:
    No, my phone is on mute/silent/etc.
    I was wondering what would an American normally say to their friend in this sense?
    Since the friend is asking if it is "off" in the sense that was intended (no interruptions), you could answer by saying it is "off" (in the intended meaning of the restriction) or you can say it is in "silent mode" if you prefer.

    I should note that in certain educational exams such as SAT, LSAT, etc., the requirements that the phone be "off" is absolute. This is to prevent cheating.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Since the friend is asking if it is "off" in the sense that was intended (no interruptions), you could answer by saying it is "off" (in the intended meaning of the restriction) or you can say it is in "silent mode" if you prefer.

    I should note that in certain educational exams such as SAT, LSAT, etc., the requirements that the phone be "off" is absolute. This is to prevent cheating.
    I see Packard. :)
    Thank you very much for informative posts. They were quite helpful.
     
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