I have the following questions:
1. If someone calls you at your phone number at the office and you are notat your desk at the moment, I pick the line for you. How should I say in English to the caller to tell him that you are not at your desk at the moment
(note: you are in the office)? Is it proper to say: "He is not at desk at the moment. May I know who's calling?" My query is on the first part of the reply.
2. If I am a smoker, I will say "I smoke a cigarette". If I am not a smokerand a smoker is smoking near me, the nicotine can still enter my body as if I am smoking. What should I say this kind of smoking (from my perspective) in English? Is it correct to say "secondhand smoking" (as a noun) & "I am taking secondhand smoke" (as a verb)?
3. Jane JAY and Michael PYE are a couple. It is correct to say "Mrs JanePye" and so if I want to mention both persons, it is correct to say "Mrs Jane and Mr. Michale Pye". But if Jane's name is unknown, is it ok to say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye"?
Please advise.
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1. If someone calls you at your phone number at the office and you are not at your desk at ... at desk at the moment. May I know who's calling?" My query is on the first part of the reply.

"Fred's away from his desk at the moment. Who's calling, please?"

Dena Jo
(Email: Replace TPUBGTH with denajo2)
on 28 Oct 2003:
I have the following questions: 1. If someone calls you at your phone number at the office and you are ... at desk at the moment. May I know who's calling?" My query is on the first part of the reply.

"He's not available right now. Shall I ask him to call you back or may I take a message?"
2. If I am a smoker, I will say "I smoke a cigarette". If I am not a smoker and ... English? Is it correct to say "secondhand smoking" (as a noun) & "I am taking secondhand smoke" (as a verb)?

You can say that you are being victimized by the smoker(s) in the area because now you are being forced to {inhale secondhand smoke / smoke passively} because of their obnoxious nicotine addiction.
3. Jane JAY and Michael PYE are a couple. It is correct to say "Mrs Jane Pye" and so if ... and Mr. Michale Pye". But if Jane's name is unknown, is it ok to say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye"?

It all depends"Mrs Jane Pye" is not always correct. It is usually better to say "Ms Jane Pye" or "Ms Jane Jay" unless you know that Jane Jay has requested to be called "Mrs" and wishes to use her hsband's family name instead of her own.
It seems a bit strange to me to say "Mrs Jane and Mr Michael Pye". It would be normal to say "Jane and Michael Pye" or "Jane Jay and Michael Pye" or "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye" or "Mr and Mrs Jane and Michael Pye". Again, it all depend on what Jane Jay has said she wants to be called.
If you don't know Jane Jay's name, then you don't mention it, obviously, and say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye", if you know that Michael Pye is married.

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If you don't know Jane Jay's name, then you don't mention it, obviously, and say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye", if you know that Michael Pye is married.

But what if it were the other way round? Would you also say "Mrs and Mr Jane Jay", instead of "Ms Jane Jay and husband" ?

jouni maho
on 28 Oct 2003:
If you don't know Jane Jay's name, then you don't ... Michael Pye", if you know that Michael Pye is married.

But what if it were the other way round? Would you also say "Mrs and Mr Jane Jay", instead of "Ms Jane Jay and husband" ?

This is a matter of custom and of who's saying it. If a diehard feminist were saying it at a feminist conference, it would probably come out something like "Jane Jay and husband" or even "Ms and Mr Jane Jay". There is clearly no single way proper for all occasions and all couples or individuals. There are only customary ways, politically- motivated ways, and ad hoc ways that meet the need of the occasion.

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(note: you are in the office)? Is it proper to say: "He is not at desk at the moment. May I know who's calling?" My query is on the first part of the reply.

...at his desk...
2. If I am a smoker, I will say "I smoke a cigarette". If I am not asmoker and a ... in English? Is it correct to say "secondhand smoking" (as a noun) & "Iam taking secondhand smoke" (as a verb)?

secondhand or passive smoking
I'm inhaling/breathing secondhand smoke./I'm passive smoking.
3. Jane JAY and Michael PYE are a couple. It is correct to say "Mrs Jane Pye" and so if ... and Mr. Michale Pye". But if Jane's name is unknown, is it ok to say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye"?

1. You will need to ask. If they are married, Mrs Jane Pye, Ms Jane Pye andMiss Jane Pye are all possible, and there are also people who dismiss all use of titles.

2. The most likely form in formal situations is "Mr Michael Pye and MissJane Jay". (Some less formal situations would admit use of the "word" Ms, and in informal situations the titles would be omitted.) Giving people's names is about giving people's names. It is not about giving information about their marital status - the man's name almost never tells you whether he's married anyway.
Adrian
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Is it proper to say: "He is not at desk at the moment. May I know who's calling?"

Probably not when a nonoptional pronoun is missing!
Is it correct to say "secondhand smoking" (as a noun) & "I am taking secondhand smoke" (as a verb)?

But isn't a verb!
3. Jane JAY and Michael PYE are a couple. It is correct to say "Mrs Jane Pye"

Not always: some women would prefer to be Mrs. Michael Pye; some people would expect Mrs. Jane Pye to be a divorcee or a widow. It's all so confusing!
and so if I want to mention both persons, it is correct to say "Mrs Jane and Mr. Michale Pye".

It is? When did the standard form get changed from "Mr. and Mrs. Michael Pye"?
But if Jane's name is unknown, is it ok to say "Mr and Mrs Michael Pye"?

Yes, but with periods over here: Mr. and Mrs. Michael Pye.
But what if it were the other way round? Would ... Jane Jay", instead of "Ms Jane Jay and husband" ?

This is a matter of custom and of who's saying it. If a diehard feminist were saying it at a feminist conference, it would probably come out something like "Jane Jay and husband" or even "Ms and Mr Jane Jay".

You can't say Mr. Jane Jay ever because such a person doesn't exist within our societal conventions. That's why when the wife is a doctor but the husband is not, you don't say "Mr. and Dr. John Smith, because there is no Dr. John Smith in the way that there is a Mrs. John Smith.

Miss Manners
(Email: Replace TPUBGTH with denajo2)
1. If someone calls you at your phone number at ... My query is on the first part of the reply.

"Fred's away from his desk at the moment. Who's calling, please?"

Jeez, that's uncanny Deej - Howdja know he was called Fred?!?
John Dean
Oxford
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