wait in/on line

roniy

Senior Member
ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
What do you say?:

"Waiting in/on line" or "waiting in/on a/the line"

"Who is last in/on line" or "Who is last in/on the line?"

and in/on is just a region thing, right?
 
  • Forero

    Senior Member
    Only "in" is used in this context, where "line" = "queue". The choice of article depends on whether a specific line (queue) is meant.

    "waiting in line" = "enqueued".
    "waiting in a line" = "waiting in a queue".
    "waiting in the line" = "waiting in the specific queue mentioned or alluded to".

    "Online" (connected to a computer system) is a different thing altogether. This "line" does not mean "queue", but "live connection".
     

    roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    Only "in" is used in this context, where "line" = "queue". The choice of article depends on whether a specific line (queue) is meant.

    "waiting in line" = "enqueued".
    "waiting in a line" = "waiting in a queue".
    "waiting in the line" = "waiting in the specific queue mentioned or alluded to".

    "Online" (connected to a computer system) is a different thing altogether. This "line" does not mean "queue", but "live connection".

    Let's say you are waiting in line and you'r on the phone with your friend.

    How would you say this ?

    A: " what're you doing right now?"

    B: " I'm waiting in line" or " I'm waiting in a line"

    where would you use " waiting in a line" and where would you use "waiting in line" ?


    Thanks.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Ok I understand the last two options.

    But let's say you are waiting in line and you'r on the phone with your friend.

    How would you say this ?

    A: " what're you doing right now?"

    B: " I'm waiting in line" or " I'm waiting in a line"

    where would you use " waiting in line" with no article ?


    Thanks.
    "Waiting in line" is the general way to refer to what we are doing when we are enqueued.

    We have to say "waiting in a line" if we want to modify "line" with an adjective or phrase (e.g. "I'm waiting in a long line" or "I'm waiting in a line full of young children").

    We may also use "a" if we expect to say more about a line ("I'm waiting in a line. Up ahead is a ticket counter. The line starts to move. ...") or if we want to hint that there are other lines (e.g. "I'm waiting in a line at Walmart" = "I'm waiting in one of the lines at Walmart.")
     

    roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    I also noticed that they can be used alternatively in this sentence:

    " Waiting in line is boring"

    "Waiting in a line is boring"

    At least according to Google they are correct.
    ????

    But here only "waiting in line is correct:
    "right now I'm waiting in line to buy tickets"

    Or
    "right now I'm waiting in the only line to buy iPhone"

    and "waiting in a line is more general :
    "When I wait in a line I tend to read books"

    What do you think about my examples and my understanding ?
     

    roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    We may also use "a" if we expect to say more about a line ("I'm waiting in a line. Up ahead is a ticket counter. The line starts to move. ...")

    I didn't get this one.

    Can't we just say
    "I'm waiting in line. Up ahead is a ticket counter. The line starts to move...."

    And how about the examples I gave in post #5 ?

    And thank you for your help :)


    edit:

    And also with lines at Walmart, even though there are many lines I can say :

    "I'm waiting in line at Walmart", right?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Deciding between "waiting in line" and "waiting in a line":

    1. When "line" is modified by an adjective or phrase, "a" is required. Leaving out "a" in such a case would definitely look/sound foreign to native speakers.
    2. Otherwise "waiting in line" is more common, but we can add "a" to convey a slightly different meaning, for example to indicate that we plan to say more about the line or to hint that the line is one of several.

    I also noticed that they can be used alternatively in this sentence:

    " Waiting in line is boring" Most common.

    "Waiting in a line is boring" Less common but almost the same meaning. More common if followed by something like "when everyone else in the line is a hungry stranger".

    At least according to Google they are correct. Nothing incorrect since "line" is without adjective or phrase modifiers. Note: Google does not attempt to distinguish correct from incorrect.
    ????

    But here only "waiting in line is correct:
    "right now I'm waiting in line to buy tickets" More common, but "a" may be added, especially if you are about to describe more about what you see or where you are.

    Or
    "right now I'm waiting in the only line to buy iPhone" Using the adjective "only" with "line" makes use of an article mandatory.

    and "waiting in a line is more general :
    "When I wait in a line I tend to read books" Not incorrect of course, but a little unusual since "a" is not really needed. Note "read books" as a generality. This is common usage even when only one book is being read. The writer might have added the "a" to make things seem less plural or perhaps one of the other reasons to use "a" might apply.

    What do you think about my examples and my understanding ?
    I didn't get this one.

    Can't we just say
    "I'm waiting in line. Up ahead is a ticket counter. The line starts to move...." Yes, this is OK too.

    And how about the examples I gave in post #5 ?

    And thank you for your help :)


    edit:

    And also with lines at Walmart, even though there are many lines I can say :

    "I'm waiting in line at Walmart", right? This is more common than the usage with "a". In this sentence, "at Walmart" is adverbial and modifies "waiting in line", not "line".
     

    kenny4528

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    At least according to Google they are correct. Nothing incorrect since "line" is without adjective or phrase modifiers. Note: Google does not attempt to distinguish correct from incorrect.
    This is very true.:)
     

    stasikprotege

    Senior Member
    American English
    I was thumbing through an EFL book and saw a section that talked about waiting in line. It used as an example "waiting in line" at a bank. It said that, while it is correct to say "waiting in line", some parts of the U.S. say "waiting on line" (specifically referring to a queue, not the internet).

    I'm from the U.S. and I have never heard anybody of any U.S. dialect use "on line" in this way. I'm just curious if somebody else has. Thanks!
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I was thumbing through an EFL book and saw a section that talked about waiting in line. It used as an example "waiting in line" at a bank. It said that, while it is correct to say "waiting in line", some parts of the U.S. say "waiting on line" (specifically referring to a queue, not the internet).

    I'm from the U.S. and I have never heard anybody of any U.S. dialect use "on line" in this way. I'm just curious if somebody else has. Thanks!
    I don't think I have heard it said in AmE. I have spent most of my life on the West Coast.

    However here is a thread where this specific question is asked. Several Americans say they have heard it, and the original poster heard it in California:in line / on line .
     

    andy0210

    Member
    Russian
    Picking up on the question: Imagine you come up to a group of people who are standing in a line/ queue. It looks a bit disorganised, so before you join the line/queue, you need to find out who the last person in the line/queue is. What would you say? I cannot think of anything better than " Who is (the) last?" but it doesn't sound good to me. Thanks in advance!
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I don't think I have heard it said in AmE. I have spent most of my life on the West Coast.

    However here is a thread where this specific question is asked. Several Americans say they have heard it, and the original poster heard it in California:in line / on line .
    It's definitely in use in New York City, but what I have always wondered is just how common it currently is. I have heard both from native New Yorkers.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top