Can you please tell me if there is any difference in meaning between a customer called and a customer called in? For example:

Today one customer called and asked if we still had that tablet in stock.

Today one customer called in and asked if we still had that tablet in stock.

I've tried to find an answer on the internet, but I haven't been able to find an answer. I've heard both in the context, so I suppose both are perfectly natural, right? I'd like to know what the in adds to the meaning.

  • Called in is a phrasal verb which needs a object.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 16:31
  • It may be colloquial. "Called" may simply mean "called". "Called in" may mean "called and confirmed".
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 16:45
  • @Dmytro O'Hope Can you tell me in which sense you are using "called in".
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 16:56
  • To my British ears, called can mean either 'made a telephone call' or 'paid a brief visit'. Called in suggests the second meaning (came into the shop). Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 16:58
  • "call in" also have the meaning to phone a place in order to give or get information (as per Cambridge dictionary )
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Both of those verbs are correct and natural in your example, but the verbs "call" and "call in" are not the same.

"Call" means to make a phone call, to or by anyone or anything, for any purpose.

"Call in" means to make a phone call for any purpose other than a social one, usually to report or gather information. For this reason, we almost only "call in" to organizations. Like, if you're sick, you can call in and let your work know you won't be coming in. If a radio show accepts phone calls, you can call in to win a prize. If you've lost your credit card, you can call in and report it.

It's very rare to "call in" with friends or family. Nearly every call to someone you know has a social element to it. The only time you'd "call in" with family or friends is, for instance, if your father is in critical condition in hospital, and you call in with your mother every half hour to get an update.

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