Which one is correct?

  1. Short questions are welcome in chat, like if you want to ask about a sentence.


  1. Short questions are welcome in the chat, like if you want to ask about a sentence.

Context: Someone asks for proofreading in the chat room. After that, one other person explains that which types of questions are welcomed over there. I quoted their explanation without any change in #1. The sentence #2 was constructed by me.

  • 1
    It's in chat - or (significantly less common among seasoned "chatters") in the chat room. But obviously this is a relatively new usage addressing a relatively new concept. I'm not sure the idiomatically established preference can be explained any better than that - it's just the usage which has become idiomatically established. Having said that, I think this is a good question, and I'd be interested to know if anyone else can give any additional justification for why things went that way. Aug 12, 2016 at 19:20
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers cf. in conversation. Aug 12, 2016 at 19:33
  • @P. E. Dant: Offhand, conversation and discussion were the only "correlates" I could think of, but nobody ever uses either of those as "standalone nouns" referencing a [virtual] location where chat / conversation / discussion takes place. Nor do we use, say, eat, drink, watch as shorthand nouns for restaurant, pub, cinema, etc. I know there are always exceptions to every rule, but so far this chat usage seems almost like a law unto itself. I'd much rather we could come up with some more exact parallels, but maybe it's simply not possible in this case. Aug 12, 2016 at 19:51
  • I wouldn't call either one "incorrect." At most, the latter is "less idiomatic."
    – J.R.
    Aug 12, 2016 at 19:58
  • 1
    @P. E. Dant: I thought I was a relatively early user of online chat, having started in the late 90s. But I know nothing of Darpa, and can safely say I've never used either the full or abbreviated form IRC. As I write, I'm put in mind of John is in hospital, which is perfectly natural in BrE, but I think most Americans would expect an article (definite or indefinite) in such contexts. Aug 12, 2016 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


'The chat' with the article is an occasion, an actual conversation, or a collective noun covering the whole corpus of what has been said.

  • The chat we had on Friday night was useful
  • The storage required for the chat is growing exponentially!

'Chat', no article, usually refers to the medium not the content.

  • Please do not use chat when e-mail would be more appropriate.

It should be "in the chat", but "in chat" is sometimes in the case below. The "the" is because the phase considers "chat" an object, and therefore an article is required.

"In chat" is referring to "chat" as a method of communication, but the usual preposition would be "over" for communication methods. In other words it would be more normal to say "He asked me a question over chat". "On" is also fairly common preposition, as in "He asked me a question over chat", but again this is a bit odd.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .