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  1. I heard his voice on the radio.
  2. I heard him on the radio.
  3. I heard his voice over the radio.
  4. I heard him over the radio.

As a non-native speaker, I've seen the number 2 a lot. What about the others? Can anyone tell me which one is right, which one is wrong? I really appreciated it if any native speakers of English could clarify the differences.

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Currently, "on the radio" is commonly used when talking about radio programs:

My son's teacher was interviewed on the radio this morning.

"Over the radio" is commonly used when talking about two-way communication, or when emphasizing the medium:

The watch towers can communicate with each other over short-wave radio.

However, until around 1940 the two seem to have been used interchangeably

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so you might commonly see "over the radio" in older media.

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I also think #2 is the most common, but all 4 of those sentences are fine.

#3 and #4, with "over the radio", do sound a little bit old fashioned to me, but not wrong. "Over the radio" sounds like what people used to say a long time ago, maybe in the 1940s and 50s. Now we are more likely to say "on the radio", at least in US style English. But it wouldn't be considered incorrect to use "over".

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As a native American English speaker, I can't find fault with any of these. I say, "on the radio." But "over the radio" is an understandable expression that can also be used. As far as "hearing him" versus "hearing his voice," I think it is usually not necessary to say "voice." For example, What is the difference as far as basic meaning between saying, "I heard the voice of Winston Churchill on the radio," versus "I heard Winston Churchill on the radio"? I don't know that there is one. But it isn't incorrect to say this.

  • Ironically, if someone said, "I heard his voice on the radio," I would think that the emphasis on the voice, instead of the person, meant that the person on the radio was actually someone else whose voice happened to sound just like the person in question. – Lorel C. Apr 3 at 15:01
  • That's possible. And I spent some time thinking that perhaps even someone in a serious mindset might use "voice" for emphasis. I just couldn't think of what they might be emphasizing. :) – Don B. Apr 3 at 17:49
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Native British English speaker here. To me, "on the radio" and "over the radio" are both fine, of course, but they have a slight difference in meaning. Essentially, the different preposition creates a different impression of what the word radio means - though I had to sit and think on it for a while to figure out that that was what the difference was to me.

On the radio has me think of radio as the physical object, the radio receiver or radio set - and most of the time, we just call that "the radio".

Over the radio has me think of radio as the system, the network or infrastructure, the idea of broadcasting things via radio waves.

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