You dialed a/the wrong number.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Cucie, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. Cucie New Member

    Hello everyone,

    Which phrase will be correct grammatically: "You dialed a wrong number" or "You dialed the wrong number"?

    From what I've been taught so far, "a wrong number" sounds better to me. Usually the person who gets a wrong number doesn't know which number he/she dialed and moreover, doesn't care about it. So, it is some random wrong number among thousands of other wrong numbers to him/her. While "the wrong number" could mean that there is only one wrong number in the world and everybody knows about it. So, the person hearing this message would think "Ah, I dialed that number! Sorry."

    However, when trying to find an answer on Google, I saw "the wrong number" in different texts more often. Why is that? I'm struggling to understand.

    Thank you
  2. hairlover45

    hairlover45 Senior Member

    Odessa Texas USA
    English - American
    To me. either is correct. As for the sentence,"You dialed the wrong number," it means, "The number you dialed is wrong," not rather, "only one wrong number exists in the world and you reached it."

    Remember that Google is an amazing resource for finding quotes, but many of these will not be good representatives of standard English. Google does not filter returns according to grammatical usage.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  3. Cucie New Member

    That's interesting. Makes more sense to me when put this way. Thank you!
  4. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    Hello Cucie and welcome to the forum!

    It is worth pointing out that we say "the wrong" more often generally than "a wrong".
    For example, if the police arrest Mr Smith instead of Mr Kasparov, we cannot say they arrested "a wrong person".

    But sometimes you can say either:
    She took a/the wrong turning.

    Sometimes only one:
    They did the wrong homework ("a wrong" is impossible).

    You can find several examples if you look up wrong in the forum dictionary and read through the various discussions.

    PS In British English we normally say "You've got/dialled the wrong number."
  5. Cucie New Member

    Yes, I saw those examples, but just couldn't figure out why it is better to say "the wrong". Thinking of it as "The number you dialed is wrong" makes it easier to understand.

    If "the wrong number" sounds better to native speakers, that's what I will say then. Thank you!

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