In some older learning material I came across, they use 「電話をかける」 for "to make a telephone call". When/why did this come to be replaced by 「電話する」 in popular usage?

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    When was 電話をかける replaced by 電話する?! Since I use both, this question makes me feel old…. Jun 8 '11 at 1:36
  • Very uncertain about this, but I once heard that 電話をかける has something to do with using a rotary dial.
    – nevan king
    Jun 10 '11 at 18:04
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    @nevan: I would imagine it's more along the lines of the かける in 声をかける (and perhaps 話し掛ける and 呼び掛ける as well), which expresses unidirectional communication. Jun 10 '11 at 21:28
  • That makes more sense. かける has too many meanings it's hard to keep track.
    – nevan king
    Jun 10 '11 at 22:15

It randomly occurred to me today that while these are indeed similar in meaning, they are not always interchangeable. If you're talking about making a call to someone/somewhere, either can be used:

事務所電話する call the office

事務所電話をかける call the office

But 電話する can also be a joint action. Consider the following:

彼氏電話する talk on the phone with one's boyfriend

彼氏電話をかける (?)

(Technically you could argue that the second sentence is grammatically correct, but the picture it gives is that of two people dialing the same phone together, so it doesn't match the meaning of the first.)

So while 電話する can be used in both a directional (calling to someone/somewhere) and a joint (talking on the phone with someone) sense, 電話をかける can only be used in a directional sense.

As a purely speculatory note, it may be that 電話する is more common today because it covers more cases than 電話をかける, which may lead you to think that 電話をかける is on the way out.


I feel like 電話をかける is more formal when writing. And there is 電話のかけ方 (How to make a call) but I don't think people use 電話し方.

But of course there is Keigo usage like お電話させていただきます, 電話する would be more popular.

  • I agree. If you were to give English equivalents, it might be something like this. 電話をかける == "To place a phone call.", "To make a phone call.". 電話する == "To phone someone.", "To call someone.".
    – phirru
    Jun 8 '11 at 3:48
  • +1 I tend to see 電話をかける used more in fiction than in everyday, spoken conversation.
    – summea
    Mar 2 '12 at 0:01

In the older usage, 電話 is the noun, and をかける is the verb. That is, the act of using a telephone.

Nowadays, we just add the ending するto 電話 in order to making "telephone" a verb. That is, the act of "telephoning."

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    Um, not quite. を is a particle, so かける is the verb in question. Plus, 電話する can also include を to become 電話をする, but this is only allowed if the rest of the clause doesn't already have を. So it really comes down to the difference between かける and する. Jun 10 '11 at 21:24

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