Calling and kidding
mobile phone

Tanya from Russia writes:

In American English, one of the meanings of the verb to call is to make a phone call. And the verb to kid means to joke. Do these verbs have the same meaning in British English and are they widely used?

Roger Woodham replies:

Yes, call is very frequently used in British English, as an alternative to ring or phone, meaning to make a phone call:

  • I decided to call / ring / phone him at home as he's always in meetings at the office.

  • Your wife called while you were in the meeting. Can you ring her back?

  • If you need more information, you can call this number.

Do you also know the informal expression used in British English to give sb a bell, meaning to phone?

  • I'll give you a bell next week and we'll make the final arrangements then.

call - phone or visit?

When it is used without an object, call can also mean visit as well as phone. Note that if the context does not make the meaning clear, this may lead to confusion:

  • By the way, Jenny called while you were at the hairdresser's. ~ Do you mean she rang or she popped in?

Note that if we want to use call with an object, meaning to visit, we normally say to call on sb:

  • I called on my sister on my way home from work. She was pleased to see me.

  • I called my sister on my way home from work from my mobile phone.

call = name / shout / etc

Note that call is also frequently used with these meanings:

  • If it's a boy, they're going to call him Cedric Alexander Roderick or Car for short.

  • This area is sometimes called the garden suburb because there's so much greenery around.

  • Did you call me? ~ I called you three times. ~ Sorry, I didn't hear you because the hair dryer was on.

  • If I call your name, please come to the front of the queue.

  • He called me into his office because he wanted a private chat.
    This train calls ( = stops) at all stations to London Victoria.
kid (verb)

Kid is widely used as a verb in British English meaning to joke if you want to suggest that what has been said may not be appropriate or true:

  • I'm going to call her and tell her she should marry Ben. ~ Are you kidding? Ben's the last person she should marry!

  • I'm going to buy her a ring with diamonds and emeralds. ~ You're kidding me! Where are you going to get the money from?

  • He says he's going to make a million before he's forty! ~ Who is he kidding? He is kidding himself if he thinks that.

kid (noun)

Note that kid and kids are also widely used as nouns to refer informally to children, sons and daughters:

  • We're going to take the kids to see Lion King at the theatre in London.

  • He's just a kid. He doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong.

  • A group of kids were stealing the apples from the orchard and selling them on the street corner.

  • They don't have any kids so there's always plenty of money for holidays.

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