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I got the following phrase from an answering machine:

We can return your call at this number.

Is the preposition "at" correct here? Shouldn't it be "to" or something else?

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3 Answers 3

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"At", "to", and "on" are all used in connection with telephone numbers, but in different ways.

The first two are easy to explain. Speaking about your physical location, you would say "I'm at [location]", but "I'm going to [destination]". Likewise, some English speakers (predominantly US English speakers) use 'at' in connection with their own telephone number (eg "you can reach me at this number") and 'to' in connection with a number they are trying to reach (eg "I'm trying to make a call to [number]".

"On" is more universal, and I believe we say this more in British English. You can say "I'm on this number" as well as "I was trying to call you on this number".

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  • Thanks for the explanation! So, in this case, "to" or "on" would be more appropriate, as they are talking about calling to a number rather than being reachable themselves at the number, right? Jul 15, 2022 at 14:44
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    @JānisElmeris "On" seems most natural to me in your example.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 18, 2022 at 7:44
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We can return your call at this number.

is, at least in US English, confusing to the point of incomprehensibility. The word "to" would normally be used to refer to the destination number. But "return your call" would normally involve the source number. Moreover such a message would not usually refer to any number, as the listener would understand that the return call would come from the number that s/he called, and probably does not much care what number the call will be returned from.

I'm on 555-1234 would be very unusual in US usage. "on" is not frequently used to indicate the number from which a person has called, and it is somewhat uncommon to mention that number at all. But if it is to be mentioned, the usual way would be something like:

I am calling from 555-1234.

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  • Thank you for the answer! The "number" here is not meant the number the call is going to be made from, but the number that will be called to. With the phrase, the company is informing the client (the caller) that they have automatically logged the number the client is currently calling from, and will call back to that number. Probably to reassure that no further action from the caller is necessary (or supported), like providing a number they can be reached at, as the company already has the number and will use it when returning the call. Jul 17, 2022 at 7:18
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I believe you could use "at" or "on".

"At" is commonly used in American English while "on" is usually used in British English.

Sometimes, you could use "from" instead. e.g. "I am returning the missed call from [phone number]."

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