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Let's say you receive a message from someone but cannot talk to them because you are on a Skype call.

Which is the correct preposition to use for saying that you are busy using Skype?

"Sorry, I am talking to Skype at the moment"? or "talking at Skype"?

Also, "talking via Skype" sounds a bit too formal to me.

What would be the common way for saying this?

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    What's wrong with talking on Skype? (Cf. your sentence 'because you are on a Skype call.')
    – Void
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:51
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    @Void Did you see me ruling it out anywhere?
    – Sebiti
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:52
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    Just as you don't talk to the telephone, you wouldn't normally talk to Skype. But given the question says because you are on a Skype call, why would you not just say Sorry, I am on a Skype call / on Skype at the moment. Feb 10, 2021 at 15:04
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    Because I was looking for a shorter way to say it. "I am on a Skype call" is a bit too long. "I am on Skype" though sounds good.
    – Sebiti
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:11
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    "Talking at [someone]" is a way to describe someone talking to someone else without actually caring about or listening to what the other person is saying. That wouldn't apply here and that's really the only context where "talk at" would be grammatical.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11, 2021 at 12:07

7 Answers 7

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I would say talking on Skype.

"Talking to Skype" means that you are talking to Skype the company.

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    Even though this answer is perfectly fine, and I'm not sure if this is just me, I would personally say "I'm on a skype call" if I was in the OP's described situation. Feb 11, 2021 at 0:09
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    I might also say I'm "talking to Skype" if I'm literally speaking at the software, which happens a lot when it's being slow/buggy. "Come on, dude, just let me open the settings dialogue..."
    – MegaWidget
    Feb 11, 2021 at 14:34
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    This is also by analogy with other means of vocal communication. You don't talk to the phone, you talk on the phone. Feb 12, 2021 at 21:05
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"Sorry, I am Skyping at the moment"

If you search it you will see that such usage is quite common, eg https://www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/why-are-we-all-zooming-and-not-skyping/

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  • Oddly, no one says they're "zooming" or "twittering". But sending a text message is "texting". The rule seems to be "add an ING to the end, but only if the result can't be confused with a real word". Feb 11, 2021 at 5:00
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    @OwenReynolds they’re not that common, but ‘zooming’ or ‘twittering’ would probably both be understandable in context. Feb 11, 2021 at 11:17
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    @OwenReynolds My family and I have definitely used "zooming" e.g. are you zooming tonight? (my dad asking if I'm talking to my friends on a Friday night which I normally do). Also for twittering, you'd either use tweeting if you were tweeting, or DMing if you were suing twitter DMs and these are both in common usage. Feb 11, 2021 at 11:53
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    @OwenReynolds It's only not "twittering" because the bird logo induces a specific word for that -- "tweeting" :-)
    – Chris Down
    Feb 11, 2021 at 11:57
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    @OwenReynolds well sure but things being potentially ambiguous without context is a pretty common thing in english. zooming is pretty well established, to the point where it's primary usage is about zoom the product rather than 'to go fast' unless it's something obvious like 'the car went zooming away'. in the internet age, how a word is commonly used can change incredibly quickly.
    – eps
    Feb 11, 2021 at 19:29
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When you are talking on the phone, you are on a call or on the phone. This is true both for landlines and for mobile phones, and this usage has been established for decades or at this point, a century.

Thus, its natural to extend this to VoIP and other teleconferencing solutions, like Skype. You are on a call, on a Skype call or simply on Skype. All of these would sound natural.

Talking "to" Skype sounds unnatural, unless you were talking with their customer support, but even then, it would be more appropriate to say that you are talking "with someone from Skype".

If you say "talking to", you specify the target, e.g. "I was talking to Bob about this". But You aren't really talking to Skype, you are only using it to talk to another person.

You might say that you are talking via Skype, but that is more rare. "I was talking to Bob via Skype" would be possible, but on is also perfectly natural here and I'd argue more common.

Note that you can also say "I'm in a Skype call", especially if you are in a call with more than one other person. This stems from the usage of being in a conference or meeting, and has since extended to Skype calls with multiple people (or other software, for that matter).

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You can talk to Skype if Skype refers to a Skype bot (an autonomous program that can help you test your connection and configuration) or a Skype assistant (a person who works at Skype and supports you). Skype could be a person’s (quite peculiar) name.

Otherwise, you talk on Skype.

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Some examples of English phrases are given below:

Phrase Good or Bad
"I am talking to Skype at the moment" Bad
"I am talking at Skype at the moment" Bad
"I am talking to someone via Skype at the moment" Good
"I am talking on Skype with someone else right now, and can't talk" Good
"Sorry, I am on a Skype call with someone else right now" Good
"Sorry, I am using Skype right now. I will to call you back later" Good
"I am sorry, but I am actually in the middle of talking to someone else right now. Can I call you back later?" Good
"I am using my computer to video chat with someone else right at this moment; I will have to call you back." Good
"I am in the middle of a Skype call" Good
"I am using my computer to video chat with someone right now. I am sorry, but I have to call you back later." Good
"I can't talk right now. Can I call you back later?" Good

Many many sentences in English can be understood by drawing two dots connected by an arrow.

TWO DOTS CONNECTED MY ARROWS

For example, the sentence,

"Joe gave a bicycle to his daughter Sarah."

DIAGRAM OF JOE GIVING BICYCLE TO SARAH

Consider the sentence,

"I am talking at Skype" (this is bad English)

PICTURE OF JOE TALKING TO SKYPE

The sentence "I am talking to Skype at the moment" is wrong for the same reason that all of the following are wrong:

  • The man was talking to the brick wall.
  • The woman was talking to her cup of tea.
  • The child was talking to their toy car.
  • Sarah was talking to the cardboard box.
  • Ian was speaking to the telephone pole.
  • I am talking to my bedspread.

Skype is a computer program.
Talking to non-living things is strange.
Talking to Skype would be a strange thing to do.

Both of the following are correct:

"I am talking to someone else, via skype"
"I am talking, via skype, to someone else"

The word "I " is like a dot (a source)
The phrase "am talking via skype to" is like an arrow.
The phrase "someone else" is like a destination dot.

Skype is like a plastic water bottle.
You don't drink a water bottle.
If you drank a water bottle, plastic would be inside of your stomach.
Likewise, you can talk to someone, but you cannot talk to Skype.

There is an English aphorism which states:

"Life is all about the journey, not the destination."

The destination of life is death. Thus, one is supposed to enjoy the journey.

Anyway, Skype is more like a Journey than a destination.

More examples of English are shown below:

BAD English GOOD English Explanation
"I drove to my car." "I drove to Delhi in my Uncle's Car" The car is like an arrow in my diagrams. The car is not a dot or circle.
"I drove at my car." "I used my car to drive to Mumbai" The Car is used on the journey. The Car is not the destination.
"I ate my spoon" (BAD) "I used a spoon to eat my Daal-Palak Ka Shorba" In one case, your stomach now contains a steel, or wood, spoon.
I talked to Skype I used Skype to talk to my sister You can not talk to Skype, Skype is a computer program
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  • Could you clarify why is "at" wrong as well? Is it because it implies a location maybe? (Thanks for the elaborate answer btw).
    – Sebiti
    Feb 13, 2021 at 20:21
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    @Sebiti I have edited the post to explain why the sentence "I am talking AT Skype" is also incorrect. I don't know if you have seen and old-fashion magnetic compass before; the kind of compass which always points North. The word "at" in English is like the needle on a Compass. The word "at" shows which way a person is facing or talking. "I was talking at my sister" or "I was talking at my mother." Technically, "speaking to" is better English than "talking at." We would say "I was speaking to my sister" instead of "I was talking at my sister." Feb 14, 2021 at 3:56
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    @Sebiti You are not allowed to use "talk to" or "talk at" unless you say who you were talking to. Good English is, "I was talking to my sister." If you do not want to say who, then you say, "I am talking to somebody." The sentence "I was talking to the telephone" is also wrong. The word "talk" is usually used to ignore the technology/electronics involved. You can talk to your sister using the phone. You can talk to your sister via telephone. You cannot talk to a telephone. If you do talk to a telephone, it is like talking to a brick wall, or talking to a rock. Feb 14, 2021 at 4:03
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I would say the Skype part is not actually relevant and can be dropped, given that you concern is that the phrase is too long. The person you are talking to is unlikely to care whether you are busy talking on Skype, Teams, Zoom or a phone call. The salient point is that you are unavailable to them.

So I'd say "I'm on a call"

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I'm talking on Skype

or

I'm talking through Skype

or

I'm talking to someone on/through Skype

You could also say I'm in a Skype call.

"To Skype" implies you're talking to Skype itself, which would be appropriate if, for example, Skype had voice control you were using and someone in the other room thought you were talking to them. In that situation, it'd be appropriate to say

Sorry, I was just talking to Skype

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  • Got it. So "I am on a Skype call" is wrong as well? Or are in/on both correct?
    – Sebiti
    Feb 11, 2021 at 9:58
  • "I am on a Skype call" is also correct. Feb 11, 2021 at 11:36
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    I wouldn't use "I'm talking through Skype" without also adding "to [someone]" (or using e.g. "We" or "[Someone] and I" instead of "I"). Using "through" emphasises there being someone on the other end and raises the question of whom.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11, 2021 at 12:17
  • "on a call" sounds odd to me, but it might be a dialectal difference.
    – mathrick
    Feb 11, 2021 at 20:00
  • @mathrick In which dialect would "on a call" sound odd?
    – MrWhite
    Feb 13, 2021 at 20:10

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