Author Topic: Do we use “call on” or “call in” to summon someone onstage?  (Read 5150 times)

Joe Carillo

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Question e-mailed by Esther Fabular (November 6, 2010):

Hi, Sir, I am confused by the use of “call on” or “call in” when calling speakers / presenters during programs. I hope you can help me with this concern.

My reply to Esther:

When asking speakers or presenters to go on stage or in front during programs, the proper phrasal verb to use is “call on,” as in “May I call on Dr. Cruz to deliver his closing remarks?” In this sense and context, “call on” means to indirectly order or request someone to do a particular activity; it has the same sense as the more polite form “ask,” as in “May I ask Dr. Cruz to deliver his closing remarks?” It presumes that the person being requested to do the activity is just nearby, maybe in the backstage or in front among the audience. (The brusque, impolite equivalent of “call on” is, of course, “Dr. Cruz, please deliver your closing remarks now”—something that even an uncouth audience will find embarrassing.)

We shouldn’t use the phrasal verb “call in” in such situations. It means to summon for assistance or consultation someone who isn’t present or isn’t near the speaker at the point of speaking, as in “I want to call in Dr. Reyes for an emergency meeting.” Such statements are rarely addressed directly to the person concerned; instead, it is said to other people simply by way of information.