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Thread: "I'll get back to you"

  1. #1
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    "I'll get back to you"

    I have a question about this phrase, meaning that I'll reply to you later. I often see people (I think mainly non-native English speakers) saying, "I'll come back to you tomorrow." I'm wondering if this is just a mistake or if it is the proper usage in other places (I'm from the US, so wondering if for example that is the common usage in the UK or Australia).
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I have a question about this phrase, meaning that I'll reply to you later. I often see people (I think mainly non-native English speakers) saying, "I'll come back to you tomorrow." I'm wondering if this is just a mistake or if it is the proper usage in other places (I'm from the US, so wondering if for example that is the common usage in the UK or Australia).
    In my experience "I'll get back to you" or "I'll call you tomorrow" is normal usage in the land of Oz. I have never heard anyone use "I'll come back to you tomorrow." in the normal course of conversation here. It does sound a bit like a phrase that might be used in Singapore or Malaysia.

  3. #3
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    I hear "I'll come back to you" fairly often, and have uttered it myself fairly frequently.
    Thinking of context, I say it when I'm in the room with the person I'm talking to, though there's no implication that repeat face-to-face contact is implied--it's understood we're talking about a brief phone call or email. Usually it's in some extended form like, "I'll come back to you on that point," though if then pressed for immediate information I might repeat (holding up a hand in a fending-off gesture), "I'll come back to you."
    So "I'll get back to you" when I am distant from my collocutor (on the other end of a phone line, for instance), "I'll come back to you" when we're both in the same location. To me, the difference in usage seems intuitive, but it pivots on the sense of being distant during a phone call; others may feel sufficiently close on the other end of a phone, or even while writing a letter, for "come back" to seem right in that setting, too.

    Grant Hutchison

  4. #4
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    I'll have to get back to you on this....

    Seriously, I don't recall ever hearing "I'll come back to you" in the USA, it's always "I'll get back to you".
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I hear "I'll come back to you" fairly often, and have uttered it myself fairly frequently.
    Thinking of context, I say it when I'm in the room with the person I'm talking to, though there's no implication that repeat face-to-face contact is implied--it's understood we're talking about a brief phone call or email. Usually it's in some extended form like, "I'll come back to you on that point," though if then pressed for immediate information I might repeat (holding up a hand in a fending-off gesture), "I'll come back to you."
    So "I'll get back to you" when I am distant from my collocutor (on the other end of a phone line, for instance), "I'll come back to you" when we're both in the same location. To me, the difference in usage seems intuitive, but it pivots on the sense of being distant during a phone call; others may feel sufficiently close on the other end of a phone, or even while writing a letter, for "come back" to seem right in that setting, too.
    Thanks, so I guess it does seem to be a British vs. American thing. It's interesting that they don't seem to use it in Australia, but perhaps in Singapore and Malaysia. Perhaps it's just that the "I'll come back to you form" went out of fashion in some places, but not others.
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    It certainly seems to once again show how adaptable/variable the English language can be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    It certainly seems to once again show how adaptable/variable the English language can be.
    And actually, I think you can generalize that to "language". In fact, I think that languages probably used to be even more adaptable, and the advent of writing (and of dictionaries on top of that) has dampened the extent to which they change over time.
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    It seems to me that it also depends on the area. Maybe somewhere in the outback there are old phrases that are no longer used in big cities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And actually, I think you can generalize that to "language". In fact, I think that languages probably used to be even more adaptable, and the advent of writing (and of dictionaries on top of that) has dampened the extent to which they change over time.
    Not for French if the Académie Française had its way. Though they do seem to be adopting a diametrically opposite approach to that supposedly endorsed by King Canute.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    Not for French if the Académie Française had its way. Though they do seem to be adopting a diametrically opposite approach to that supposedly endorsed by King Canute.

    Or to the Borg: "Resistance is futile."
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And actually, I think you can generalize that to "language". In fact, I think that languages probably used to be even more adaptable, and the advent of writing (and of dictionaries on top of that) has dampened the extent to which they change over time.
    Personally, I suspect that the development of audio recording has slowed the changing of language even more than writing did.

    I would bet we'd have a much easier time understanding someone from 1920 than would someone from 1920 trying to understand someone from 1820, precisely because we can (and do) still hear 1920s people speaking.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Personally, I suspect that the development of audio recording has slowed the changing of language even more than writing did.
    Good point, and yes, it probably has.


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