the difference between words: call back and call someone back

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Recently I was teaching how to take and leave messages and my students asked me the difference between “call back” and “call someone back”. They thought it was the same thing, but it’s not. I want to write about that for today’s blog entry.

In English, when we say we will “call back” later, it means we will call again without leaving a message right now. However, when we say we will “call someone back”, it means we are returning a message from another person. For example:

A: Would you like to leave a message for Mr. Jones?

B: No, it’s ok. I’ll just call back later.

_________________________________________________________________

A: Would you like to leave a message for Mr. Jones?

B: Yes. Could you please ask him to call me back as soon as possible?

A: Alright. I’ll have him call you back when he arrives at the office.

_________________________________________________________________

Ms. Peterson called earlier, but you weren’t here. She said she’d call back at 3:00.

Ms. Peterson called earlier, but you weren’t here. She wants you to call her back at 3:00.

I know this can be a little confusing but try to remember it like this: If the words “call” and “back” are next to each other, the meaning is call again. If they are separated by another word like “you”, “me”, “him”, “her” or a name, it means that someone has to return the call.

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