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"Do you have the reference number with you?"

or

"Do you have the reference number on you?"

Please tell me which one is correct

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2 Answers 2

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"I don't have it on me" is a common thing to say in British English.

  • Do you have it with you?

If the person has travelled somewhere, and they brought it with them - they might be holding it, but it could instead be outside in their car, or someone else might be carrying it. It is still "with them" because they can get it quickly and easily. It's not at home, or far away.

You might ask this for an official thing, like a reference number.

"Do you have the reference number with you?"

"Yes here it is" or "Yes, it's outside in my car, I'll go and get it"

"Thank you"

  • Do you have it on you?

Are you carrying it yourself, in your pocket or bag? If it is outside in your car, then it is not "on you". If someone else has it, it is not "on you".

You would ask this for a quick request, one that you don't want them to have to go and get something.

"You have a pocket knife - do you have it on you?"

"No, it's at my desk"

"Nevermind, don't go and get it. I'll just tear this box open".

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  • there are many situations where 'on me' is possible (Hey, those hamburgers are on me -in the restaurant, I'm giving a party. Here, those food items are 'on' me means I'm paying the bill. But then, those are not relevant here. The OP talks about 'reference number' which for sure will take 'with' here.
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 6:25
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    No, in AmE, at least, it is not "for sure", @MaulikV we use 'do you have a/the -- on you?' all the time. By the way, +1 for careful distinction of the two uses, which are the same in AmE. Do you have a cigarette on you? means Do you have a cigarette on your person (as it were)?
    – user6951
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 6:31
  • very strange to me then! :) @pazzo
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 6:34
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    @MaulikV - This answer is spot on. Either one could be used; see Collins #3, or Cambridge POSSESSION: Do you have a spare pen on you? / I don't have my driving licence on me. If I saw you write the reference number on a slip of paper, and I think you may have put that slip of paper in your pocket or wallet, there's a good chance I'd ask, "Do you have the reference number on you?"
    – J.R.
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 9:27
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    @Maulik - I like how your answer mentioned that you could omit the prepositional phrase entirely, but I winced when you implied that on shouldn't be used that way. Pick a contemporary dictionary, it's in there: Macmillan, M-W 2d, Dictionary.com 25, YD 24, etc. Although a couple of those dub it as informal, the more reputable ones don't even say that.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 9:52
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In most of the cases, it's "with". However, to think further about the subtlety of the usage of prepositions, you may have to come up with the context ["That's on me" -is possible when I'm talking about paying a restaurant bill].

It's a style of talking. You can also remove the whole part 'with you' in such contexts.

Do you have the reference number (with you)?
Do you have a pen (with you)?
Do you have a paper (with you)? and so on...

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  • BrE could colloquially use 'on you' for all of those, but in any more formal situation, I'd avoid it. [idk if AmE has similar usage] Commented May 30, 2015 at 6:09
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    AmE does @Tetsujin and others
    – user6951
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 6:32

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