I am sorry but I feel confused by "computer screen" and "computer" alone when I tried to tell my friends what I was doing.
(1): I am sitting in front of a computer screen talking to you with a webcam.
(2): I am sitting in front of a computer talking to you with a webcam.

I am not sure whether (1) and (2) are equivalent, but if they are, then, they will make me confused again:
when your computer becomes old and you are going to buy a new one, so how will you tell your parents about this then?
(1): Hi, Dad and Mom, I need some money to buy a new computer.
(2): Hi, Dad and Mom, I need some money to buy a new computer screen.

  • Whenever you work/write/research/chat/watch a movie/..., you are using your computer and all its components. The computer screen is only that thing made of glass [hist.] and you refer to it when you clean/scratch/look at/... it. – Avigrail Jan 28 '15 at 6:49

A computer screen actually refers to the monitor, though it often is used in kind of an uneducated way to refer to a computer. People used to use "T.V. screen" this way too.

In describing your situation, actually you are in front of the webcam. And you are talking into it. So I would say:

I am sitting in front of a computer, talking to you over the webcam.

As for the second phrase, you only need to say:

Hi, Dad and Mom, I need some money to buy a new computer.

The monitor might be separate, so say "new monitor" if that is what you need.

  • The other thing to note is that on laptops and tablets, the screen/monitor is built into the case of the computer itself. – Aaron Brown Jan 22 '15 at 21:12
  • @AaronBrown Of course. I edited my answer. Though I can't imagine what asking for a "computer screen" might get you. – user3169 Jan 22 '15 at 21:14

"Computer screen" refers to the screen itself, frequently called a monitor. On desktop computers, the monitor is separate from the actual computer, but in laptops and tablets the screen is built into the computer.

As for your first two sentences, either one is fine, although I would use "on a webcam" rather than "with a webcam".

A "computer" or a "computer screen" are two different things, so you would need to figure out which you mean before you tell your parents which one you want to buy.


In this context, they are equivalent.

The word "computer" can refer to the whole system - the tower, the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, the printer, etc., all together. If I say "I'm setting up my computer", I might mean "I'm setting up my computer, and all the things that are normally attached to my computer." The word "computer" stands for the whole system because it's the most important part of that system. (It.s technically an instance of metonymy, if you want to get technical.)

In that context, my computer screen is part of "my computer". Specifically, it's the part of the computer I interact with.

"I am sitting in front of a computer" means "I am sitting in front of a system of devices, of which the computer is the most important part."

  • 1
    True for the O.P.'s first example, but I don't think it carries over to the second example. If my son told me, "I need to get a new computer screen," I'd assume he needed a new monitor. – J.R. Jan 22 '15 at 23:05

If you're talking about the part of the computer you're looking at, then computer and computer screen are synonymous. "I am tired of sitting in front of the computer / computer screen all day."

This is especially the case with most Apple computers, where even the desktops have the screen built into the case, but even if you have a situation where you have the computer itself in a case and the monitor is nothing but a screen, people will still understand "computer" to mean "computer screen" and vice versa -- most of the time. (E.g., "That joke was so funny I spat water all over my computer!") As noted above, if you need to replace a component, then it matter whether you need to replace the computer (the part that computes), the computer screen (or monitor), the keyboard, the motherboard, the hard drive, the CD drive, the mouse/trackpad/trackball, etc. (E.g., "That joke was so funny, I spat my drink all over my computer, and now I need to replace my computer screen.")

If you have a computer where everything is in the same case -- a laptop or most Apple desktops -- then "I need a new computer" will be understood to encompass the entire device: the computing part, the screen, the keyboard, etc.

  • Doesn't anybody still use towers, sitting on the floor? not students, I suppose. And I guess you're still "in front of it" anyway (that is, your feet are, maybe). – Brian Hitchcock Jan 23 '15 at 9:23
  • I actually have a tower which used to sit to the side of the old monitor. ...now the current computer (a desktop, with a screen even bigger than the old monitor) sits on top of the tower. But yeah, tower computers are mostly for people with major CPU needs, these days -- or so I gather. – A.Beth Jan 23 '15 at 19:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.