A. I changed my phone number.
B. I changed phone numbers.
Google favors A over B by a factor of more than 10, but someone told me that "change" should take a plural noun without an article in cases like this, and so A is the only correct choice. Come to think of it, I hear "I changed jobs" more often than "I changed my job," but I don't think that's the case with the sentences in question. Could anyone shed light on this?

becky
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becky wrote on 12 Jul 2004:
A. I changed my phone number. B. I changed phone numbers. Google favors A over B by a factor of more than 10,

"A" sounds more like idiomatic AmE to me.
But I'd just as soon say "I've got a new phone number"; it makes more sense to me.
but someone told me that "change" should take a plural noun without an article in cases like this,

Nonsense. It all depends on the rest of the sentence and on what both the speaker and the listener understand about what is being said. "I changed the phones numbers" is just as grammatical as "I changed phone numbers", but the meaning is slightly diffrerent.
and so A is the only correct choice.

Shouldn't that be "so B is the only correct choice"? If it shouldn't, then it makes no sense to me.
Come to think of it, I hear "I changed jobs" more often than "I changed my job,"

"I've got a new job" sounds like better idiomatic AmE to me. "I changed jobs" suggests that the speaker switched jobs with someone else rather than got a new job at a new company. "I changed my job" sounds more like the speaker changed the nature of the job instead of switching jobs within a company or switching companies.
but I don't think that's the case with the sentences in question. Could anyone shed light on this?

The sentences in question are not clear. What does the speaker want to say? Unless you are the phone company, you don't change your phone number; the phone company always changes your phone number. Unless, of course, you go to the box and switch the wires yourself, or you have a roommate, each of you has a phone with a different number, and you decide one day that you like your roommate's phone mumber better than your own and decide to switch phone numbers on your own. Otherwise, you can say "I had my phone number changed" to express the fact that you asked the phone company to change your phone number.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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becky wrote on 12 Jul 2004:

A. I changed my phone number. B. I changed phone numbers. Google favors A over B by a factor of more than 10,

"A" sounds more like idiomatic AmE to me. But I'd just as soon say "I've got a new phone number"; it makes more sense to me.

Well, in the pure logic (something with which language has little to do) sense, maybe.
but someone told me that "change" should take a plural noun without an article in cases like this,

Nonsense.

Hmmm...I'd probably say, "I changed shirts..." (although I could say "I changed my shirt..." but "I changed a tire" (and never "I changed tires.") So it seems to me that the plurality involved is pure idiom, although maybe the "I changed a tire" is influenced by the need to show that only one of four tires was changed. And I change lanes, change hands, change regimes, change parties, change tables. But I change my schedule, change my vacation, change my mind.

If there is a pattern, it seems to be that we sometimes view "change" as short for "exchange", i.e., trade one for another. At other times we view "change" as "to alter something". Whether we picture a phone number as something that is exchanged (i.e., traded in for another one), or altered (I erase the digit 6 in 555-3672 and replace it with a 4; simultaneously some wires and switches are moved to physically alter the number) will determine singular or plural. And having a choice of mental/linguistic pictures is at the heart, I think of idiom. But since we are alert to patterns, the prevalence of "my" probably influences the choice of the singular, too. I would change shirts, but change my shirt.
Come to think of it, I hear "I changed jobs" more often than "I changed my job,"

"I've got a new job" sounds like better idiomatic AmE to me.

It may be logically a little better, but I don't think it is more idiomatic AmE.
The sentences in question are not clear. What does the speaker want to say? Unless you are the phone company, ... had my phone number changed" to express the fact that you asked the phone company to change your phone number.

But if the phone company is acting as my agent, following my instruction to alter my number, then I think I can present myself grammatically as the actor.
Gary Williams
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A. I changed my phone number. B. I changed phone numbers. Google favors A over B by a factor of ... my job," but I don't think that's the case with the sentences in question. Could anyone shed light on this?

Only to say I think the Google count reflects, in this case, what is idiomatic, 'I changed my phone number', as are you with 'I changed jobs'. Very often there's no explaining why things are said the way they are said.

Charles Riggs
Gary Williams wrote on 12 Jul 2004:
becky wrote on 12 Jul 2004: "A" sounds more like ... a new phone number"; it makes more sense to me.

Well, in the pure logic (something with which language has little to do) sense, maybe.

That depends on whether you're talking about spoken or written language to some extent. What people say has little to do with logic, I'll agree. What they write when they write formally, however, has a great deal to do with logic, even when idiomatic and illogical.

The logic of language use has to do with saying what you mean and meaning what you say, with organizing what you say into an understandable order, and with using forms that clearly express one's intent. Some speakers and writers are better at it than others.

Some idioms don't work outside the group in which they are are popular.

Any idiomatic expression that generates requests for clarification from native speakers has to be strictly local (in one sense or another) and not really idiomatic
Nonsense.

Hmmm...I'd probably say, "I changed shirts..." (although I could say "I changed my shirt..." but "I changed a ... lanes, change hands, change regimes, change parties, change tables. But I change my schedule, change my vacation, change my mind.

Changing none of these is analogous to a changing a phone number, and I can only wanoder what you mean by "I ... change hands, change regimes, change parties"; they are all ambiguous without a context, especially "regimes": you're ambidexterous, you've changed your spots, you've pulled a Nixon.
If there is a pattern, it seems to be that we sometimes view "change" as short for "exchange", i.e., trade ... the prevalence of "my" probably influences the choice of the singular, too. I would change shirts, but change my shirt.

Do speakers really go through such mental gymnastics before making utterances, except for those rare instances when they believe that they have to say whatever they are about to say very, very carefully? I doubt it.
"I've got a new job" sounds like better idiomatic AmE to me.

It may be logically a little better, but I don't think it is more idiomatic AmE.

Some of us speak more logically than others; as a consequence, what is idiomatic to us is merely logical to you.
The sentences in question are not clear. What does the ... you asked the phone company to change your phone number.

But if the phone company is acting as my agent, following my instruction to alter my number, then I think I can present myself grammatically as the actor.

But nobody thinks such things before they speak, except when they realize that the way they express themselves is more important than what they have to say, at which point, of course, one's speech is no longer idiomatic but deliberate.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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becky wrote on 12 Jul 2004: "A" sounds more like idiomatic AmE to me.

Both sound fine to my Brit ears but I think that I would be more likely to say A.
But I'd just as soon say "I've got a new phone number"; it makes more sense to me.

Well, in the pure logic (something with which language has little to do) sense, maybe.

As a mathematician, I can be very strict about logic but only in the appropriate context. I don't try to impose mathematical logic on everyday conversation.
Nonsense.

I would pay no attention to such a rule.
Hmmm...I'd probably say, "I changed shirts..." (although I could say "I changed my shirt..." but "I changed a ... lanes, change hands, change regimes, change parties, change tables. But I change my schedule, change my vacation, change my mind.

I think that I would be more likely to say "I changed my shirt". I think that using only one shirt at a time suggests the singular. How about:
I change my shirt every day.
* I change my shirts every day.
The second sounds very odd to me. If someone said it, I would get the impression that they wear more than one shirt at a time. On the other hand, change one letter and its sounds fine:
I change my shorts every day.
If there is a pattern, it seems to be that we sometimes view "change" as short for "exchange", i.e., trade ... the prevalence of "my" probably influences the choice of the singular, too. I would change shirts, but change my shirt.

I would agree with that. I can easily imagine "change" being used when "exchange" may be more appropriate.
"I've got a new job" sounds like better idiomatic AmE to me.

All three sound fine to me. I cannot say which I would prefer.
It may be logically a little better, but I don't think it is more idiomatic AmE.

The sentences in question are not clear. What does the ... you asked the phone company to change your phone number.

But if the phone company is acting as my agent, following my instruction to alter my number, then I think I can present myself grammatically as the actor.

I agree that it is pedantic to make the distinction between me changing the phone number and the phone company doing it. The phone company is the tool that we use to do the job. Am I writing this note or is my computer? I normally take the credit, or the blame.
Gary Williams

Seán O'Leathlóbhair
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Sean O'Leathlobhair wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
I agree that it is pedantic to make the distinction between me changing the phone number and the phone company doing it.

And is it pedantic to make a distinction between your defense lawyer, who also acts as your agent, convincing a jury to acquit you of a criminal charge in a public trial or your doing it?
The phone company is the tool that we use to do the job.

Aye, and so is the lawyer.
Am I writing this note or is my computer?

I'd say that your computer was writing this note. It smacks of artifical intelligence.
I normally take the credit, or the blame.

You are too generous. I'd shoot the computer, if I were you.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Sean O'Leathlobhair wrote on 13 Jul 2004:

I agree that it is pedantic to make the distinction between me changing the phone number and the phone company doing it.

And is it pedantic to make a distinction between your defense lawyer, who also acts as your agent, convincing a jury to acquit you of a criminal charge in a public trial or your doing it?

But the context is different. What is required precision in a courtroom may be pedantic in day to day life. If I am discussing mathematics, I set my logical standards high. If I applied the same standards to everyday conversation, no one would want to speak to me.
The phone company is the tool that we use to do the job.

Aye, and so is the lawyer.

See above. Do you need that level of precision when telling someone that the phone company, acting on your behalf, has changed your phone number? What would you say if you used a web interface to the phone company and no human at the company was involved?
Am I writing this note or is my computer?

I'd say that your computer was writing this note. It smacks of artifical intelligence.

No to me. You are the one who wants to apply the same logical standards regardless of context. My programming allows me precision in court and a more casual style when talking to friends. If one of us is an artificial intelligence, then I don't think that it is me.
I normally take the credit, or the blame.

You are too generous. I'd shoot the computer, if I were you.

Seán O'Leathlóbhair V0.5 (Not yet passed the Turing test)
Sean O'Leathlobhair wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
Sean O'Leathlobhair wrote on 13 Jul 2004: And is ... criminal charge in a public trial or your doing it?

But the context is different. What is required precision in a courtroom may be pedantic in day to day life. ... logical standards high. If I applied the same standards to everyday conversation, no one would want to speak to me.

I'd say that that was a pretty strong negative judgment about the willingness of native anglophones to engage in not unreasonably clear conversation. I'm not saying that you're wrong about that, mind you. From what I've read here from some of the RRs, I'm not at all surprised to hear from one more that fewer and fewer (or should that be "less and less"?) native anglophones don't care much about what they say or how they say it. There are even a few regulars here who seem to be proud of their inability to say what they have to say without sounding, as Bill Walsh might say, stupid, ignorant, and illiterate.

The particular usage problem here is not, it seems to me, an inconsiderable one, even in casual conversation. Haven't you ever heard a native anglophone say something like "I can't drive you to work any more because I had my car stolen on me"? I have. It doesn't mean what it says; it means "because somebody stole my car".

Japanese, a wonderful language, has a variety of verb forms to express all kinds of things that we can express in English using different structures. In Japanese, though, there is a suffix attached to the root or another basic form of the verb (depending on the type of verb it is). The one I immediately thought of when reading and responding to this thread is the causative, which translates, loosely, into "X {caused/made/had} Y do VERB". I think that in Japanese, it would be natural to use that causative form when talking about having one's telephone number changed.
English also has a causative, but it's a structure with "have", "make", "force", "allow", etc. It doesn't seem to me to be pedantic to use this prefectly normal and quite frequently heard form when talking about having things done.
Let's take the comparison down a few notches from having the phone number changed versus persuading a jury to acquit one of a criminal charge to having a phone number changed versus having a bedroom painted a different color. While I might say that "I changed the color scheme in my bedroom", I'd never say that "I painted my bedroom walls and ceiling blue" if I had someone else do the painting.
Aye, and so is the lawyer.

See above. Do you need that level of precision when telling someone that the phone company, acting on your behalf, ... you say if you used a web interface to the phone company and no human at the company was involved?

That feels very much like "I'm writing this post" instead of "I'm using my computer to write this post". I'd also say "I transferred the money to your bank account this morning" if I could do it at the ATM machine or on the Internet. For an international transfer of funds, though, I'd be more likely to say "I went to the bank this afternoon to have the money transferred to your account, but because it was after 2:00 p.m. on Friday, the transfer won't be made until Monday morning and won't get there until Wednesday or Thursday".

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