Hi there!

I can't always determine when is it that I have to use "on the phone" "by phone" "via the phone" "over the phone", and I don't even know if "at the phone" is correct. I think it could be used in such cases as: "Stella, come here!! Richard's AT the phone!" Now,

1. "I was speaking ON the phone when he arrived" or "I was ON the phone when he arrived"? Anyway, is it right? What about "OVER the phone", or "BY phone", or even "I was AT the phone when he arrived."

2. "When talking OVER the phone, always try to speak clearly". Are "ON", "BY phone", "VIA" also possible here?

3. "Make any suggestions or complaints BY phone / VIA phone / VIA the phone. Otherwise, they will ignore you." What abour "OVER the phone" here?

4. "Talking VIA phone is much more expensive than sending emails." What about "BY the phone"? Are "VIA + noun" and "BY the + noun" interchangeable?

I'd appreciate it if you could explain this and give some examples.

Thanks a lot!

1 2
First of all, I don't use "via the phone" and I have never heard anyone else use it, so you can forget that one, in my opinion.
"by the phone" cannot used to mean "by phone"; it is used to mean "near the phone", the same as with "by the table", "by the window", etc.
While "over the phone" is understandable, I don't recommend it. There's always a better version, in my opinion.
You won't go wrong using "on the phone" whenever the context is "speak" or "talk".

I was speaking [on the / *by / *by the / *over the / *at the] phone when ...
When talking [on the / *by / *by the / ?over the / *at the] phone, always ...
Talking [on the / *by / *by the / *over the / *at the] phone is more expensive ...
Make any suggestions [ *on the / by / *by the / ?over the / *at the] phone.
There's the man you're looking for, standing [*on the / *by / by the / *over the / ?at the] phone.

Thanks a lot for your explanations, CalifJim!

Now, what if somebody is waiting AT the other end of the line? Would you use "on the phone" as well?

E.g.: "¡Liz, pick up the receiver, John's AT the phone!", meaning John has phoned you and he is waiting for you to answer, i.e., he is AT the other end of the line.

Thanks a lot!

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Liz, pick up the receiver; John's [calling / on the phone / ?at the phone]!
Liz, pick up! [It's John! / I've got John on the line! / John is on the line!]
Liz, pick up the receiver; John's [?at the other end of the line]!

(No ¡ in English. Emotion: smile )
There isn't a "via the phone" in BrE; but we do have "over the phone", in this context:

1. When giving your credit card number over the phone, always speak clearly.

Thanks MrP!!

Is "over the phone" in this case equivalent to "by phone"?

Thanks again,

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Maybe more like "through" the phone?
Yes, "by phone"; but it has an added sense of "transmitting information during the phone call". (Which is "through the phone" too; though you wouldn't say "through the phone". Well, not in BrE, anyway.)

For instance:

1. I'm not going to give you my credit card number over the phone!

2. I gave her my address over the phone.

3. She took down my particulars over the phone.

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to say that "through" the phone was correct, it was to convey the meaning, but it wasn't fortunate, I'm afraid...
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