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Which preposition(s) is / are correct in the following example?

We contacted the college authority over / on / by Skype.

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Technically you can use quite a variety of prepositions with the word Skype. For instance on, in, over, by, with, through, and via.

But most people prefer "on Skype" as it is similar to "on the phone". However, in technical documentation and in formal speech I often hear "via Skype".

As for the other prepositions, they are used less often but sometimes in a different context.:

  • by - "by means of" or "using" Skype as a software.
  • over - mostly used when you want to send somebody information via Skype: "Could you send it to me over Skype" or "How to play music over Skype?".
  • in - same as over when sending infirmation, and whenever somebody is talking about functions and services that Skype provides or that are in the software (online and OS based alike): "Let's chat in Skype", "Could you show it to me in Skype?", "You can't make free telephone calls in Skype" or "The smileys in Skype aren't very beautiful"
  • through - used very rarely and mostly means by means of the service: "You can contact other people through Skype"
  • with - mostly means "when using" and "together": "How to use a webcam camera with Skype" or "I have a USB flash drive with Skype on it".

Edit:

  • into - mostly used when you need to access your Skype account or when you want to insert something into the software's message window. Also used when you want to add a component, a feature or new smileys to Skype: "How to login into Skype", "I cannot sign into Skype" or "How to copy/paste into Skype"
  • across - mostly to mean "over the network (not very common): "You can share videos across Skype"
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    +1 for via. Works for any similar situation when communicating through the use of a specific tool, medium, protocol, application, etc. – Cloud Dec 4 '17 at 21:03
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The most common usage is to use the preposition on in the example you have provided although the other prepositions are not incorrect. This area is evolving, and preposition usage can often be varied, depending on local usage and the fact, as stated by Joi de Vivre, that English is fairly flexible/lax in its use of prepositions.

As I expect you are aware, Skype is also commonly used as a verb –– We Skyped the college authority.

  • Note: "Skyped," although commonly used, is looked down upon because it genericizes Microsoft's brand name. (other examples: "get a kleenex", "put on a band-aid", "escalator"… the list goes on and on.) </rant> – OldBunny2800 Dec 4 '17 at 4:12
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    @OldBunny2800 Did you happen to google any of those other examples? :D – Andrew Dec 4 '17 at 4:29
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    Actually, no, I did not search for them on the web. ;) – OldBunny2800 Dec 4 '17 at 4:31
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    Do people commonly "Skype" as a verb to refer to video calling with other software? I'm not personally familiar with that usage; within my experience, when someone says e.g. "We Skyped the college authority", it literally means they used the program Skype. Anyway, my point is that, as I understand it, simply using "Skype" as a verb does not genericize it. Using "Skype" as any part of speech to refer to videoconferencing software as a general class is the thing to complain about, but this answer doesn't do so. – David Z Dec 4 '17 at 9:07
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    @DavidZ I think I've heard people use "skype" as a verb when they were actually using Facetime. As with "google", it most often means actually using Google simply due to market dominance, but if I told someone to google something I wouldn't object to them using Bing instead. – Barmar Dec 4 '17 at 19:59
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We contacted them over Skype. - GOOD

We contacted them on Skype. - GOOD

We contacted them by Skype. - MAYBE. Sounds weird to me but also makes sense if you think about it for a couple of seconds. I'd recommend using one of the other phrases.

We contacted them via Skype. - GOOD

We contacted them in Skype. - BAD. Sounds weird. Gives the impression of shrinking yourself and crawling into the messenger. Hahaha.

We contacted them at Skype. - BAD. Sounds weird. Gives the impression of contacting them at Skype's headquarters building, rather than via the Skype messenger.

Interesting that over Skype, which is one of the best answers here, was lowest in the Google results, while in Skype and at Skype were ranked higher. This is why Googling is not always the best way to answer language questions.

  • 1
    I get 1300 results for "contacted over Skype", 1260 for "contacted in Skype", and 557 for "contacted at Skype", which holds up with the ordering I'd expect. "in Skype" probably has a lot of results talking about the usage of Skype. I'm guessing your searches were without the verb. – Millie Smith Dec 4 '17 at 22:21
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    "contacted at Skype" needs specific examples for clarity; until then I'd presume that such instances are a collection of (a) referring to Skype in a corporate sense, not use of their program; (b) inapt usage by non-native English-wielders, meaning "over/on/by/via". – N. Presley Dec 5 '17 at 1:38
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Based on Google the most common preposition in this specific context is "on". However, I think the question should be expended with the question about the options "in" and "at", since they are also variants that people may use sometimes.

The searching on Google based on these sentences:

  • "contact by / in/ on/ over"

  • "contact me by / in/ on/ over"

The results show the frequency of the prepositions in Google as follow:

1st place: the preposition on.

2nd place: the preposition by.

3rd place: the preposition in.

4th place: the preposition at.

5th place: the preposition over.

But be aware that the preposition "on" is very dominant in use (113K results) compared to "by" (20K results) and "in" (17K results) while "at" and "over" has a very few results (4.4K and 1.9K correspondingly) compared to all of them.

In addition, I think that Cambridge dictionary supports the most frequent preposition for that "on": enter image description here

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    I used to work for a company where, at least initially, we did most of our communication on Skype. It was always on-- never in, over, or by. – Andrew Dec 4 '17 at 4:31
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    I am not downvoting, but “at” is not an appropriate use here. You don’t communicate with someone at some vehicle like a telephone or online computer app. “At” implies locality (or presence), whereas on/over/by/etc only imply use of said vehicle (Skype). – Dúthomhas Dec 4 '17 at 5:43
  • That's true. I just suggested the information giving the options which can be seen in Google. The preposition "at" placed over "contact over Skype" as I've written. In addition, the preposition "at" is used also in US in "contact at", as Cambridge dictionary notes (look at the picture that I've attached here). – Judicious Allure Dec 4 '17 at 5:47
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    Yes, but the object in this usage is different than the OP. We can contact someone at a specific address, but not at the delivery vehicle. Google cannot distinguish between the two usages. – Dúthomhas Dec 4 '17 at 6:32
  • I'd also throw in "You can contact me via Skype" ;) – Polygnome Dec 4 '17 at 12:29
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Most answers to this question seem to be assuming that the object of the preposition dictates which preposition is the most appropriate to use. The object matters a little, but the verb in the sentence is usually much more important for choosing the best preposition. English is pretty lax about prepositions compared to some other languages, so none of the proposed prepositions is necessarily incorrect. However, I would say that the best prepositions to use with the verb "contact" are usually "by" (a method), "on" (a platform), "in" (a location), or "at" (other types of locations).

Here, where you are using Skype by itself, "on" sounds more natural, because Skype is a platform. But Skype is also a method for contacting someone. For example, if you used it in a list of other methods for contacting you, you'd want to use "by," as in, "You can contact me by phone, email, or Skype."

Examples of contact with these various types of prepositions:

Contact me on Facebook. (platform)
Contact me by phone. (method)
Contact me in Rome. (location)
Contact me at home. (location)

Note that with "on," "in," and "at" the prepositional phrase is saying where you want to be contacted. With "by," the phrase is saying how you want to be contacted.

Contrary to what others have said, I don't think that the prepositions "over" and "through" go very well with the verb "contact." The meaning of the verb doesn't lend itself well to the meanings of these prepositions. In the given example, "over" is actually ambiguous. If you tell me you contacted the authorities over Skype, I actually won't know if you spoke to them using Skype or if you talked to them on the phone or in person or in some other way about Skype.

3

In the given example, over.

Skype is a service/application, so over is the best choice of the three.

I would also point out that through or using work well in other situations too.

"You can contact me using Skype." "You can call me through Skype."

However when referring to your use of Skype as a platform it would be on.

"You can find me on Skype."

"Add me as a friend on Skype so that I can call you."

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