What is the difference between “call on” and “call at”?

When you “call on” someone, you pay them a short visit. It is also possible to say “call upon”, but this is considered to be rather formal.

Example: The students called on the ailing Principal on Wednesday afternoon.

When a teacher “calls on” a student in class, she wants him to answer the question.

Example: “I don’t understand why she has to call on me all the time”.

The expression “call at” is normally used in relation to a place. You usually call at some place. When you call at some place, you visit the individual at his place – it could be the office, home, etc.

Example: “I called at his office on my way to the airport”.

The expression “call at” can also be used to mean “stop at”.

Example: According to the brochure, our ship will call at five ports.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – October 22, 2007


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