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Which one of the follwoing sentences sound more natural to you:

  • Can you tune the radio onto BBC?
  • Can you switch the radio onto BBC?
  • Can you turn the radio onto BBC?

Also, please tell me about a TV channel. I know the verb switch is mostly used in this case, but I need to know whether it is possible to use 'tuning' or 'turning' for a TV channel too; for instance:

  • Please switch to channel 9.

Can we substitute 'switch' with one of the other two above-mentioned verbs?

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    You "switch to a channel or frequency." If you turned the radio, you'd be moving the radio itself, not changing its frequency. – MorganFR Aug 5 '16 at 11:49
  • @MorganFR so you mentioned that I have to reword my sentence like this: "Can you switch to channel BBC?". Sound all right. But what about a TV channel? – A-friend Aug 5 '16 at 11:50
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    "Switching to a channel" on TV is alright. On the radio/TV, you might also use "tune in" idioms.thefreedictionary.com/tune+in, especially on a program or something specific, not a channel in general. – MorganFR Aug 5 '16 at 11:54
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    Turning the TV/radio to a channel/frequency is also widely used. – MorganFR Aug 5 '16 at 13:06
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    Should be "the BBC". – user3169 Aug 5 '16 at 17:28
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In each case, it would be best to use "to" instead of "onto":

Can you tune the radio to BBC?
Can you switch the radio to BBC?
Can you turn the radio to BBC?

This is because "onto" expresses movement to a surface ("move onto the pavement") whereas "to" can express movement towards a condition or state (in this case, the state is the radio receiving BBC).

You could use any of these, but tune is the most commonly used. It is acceptable to use turn and switch, but less common. I expect turn will become increasingly less common as more and more people move from analogue radios to digital ones, as turn refers to turning the tuning wheel/knob on the radio to a particular frequency.


For the second part of your question, it is acceptable to "tune" a TV to a particular channel. However, I would again expect this to become less common as analogue televisions become a thing of the past.

It is correct and common to say "turn the TV to channel 9."


Keep in mind that relative usages of the terms can and do vary greatly with region. I would not be surprised to hear any of the combinations mentioned in your question, but some regions may use one more than the others.

  • Thank you very much LMS; as usual a an informative answer. But let me asking one more question close this thread for myself; Do you agree that both the "turning" and "switching" to a specific TV channel would sound idiomatic and natural? – A-friend Aug 5 '16 at 12:26
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    @A-friend: Both of those sound natural. You may also want to consider "switch (the TV) over to (a channel)," which is used. – LMS Aug 5 '16 at 12:31

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