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Can I say "Do you have a facebook" to ask if someone has "a Facebook account"? I know it is not grammatically correct. I just wanted to know if people say that or not.

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Only if you ask it to Mark Zuckerberg. –  dysoco Jun 21 '12 at 18:47
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7 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

People do say it, but that doesn't make it right or that you should repeat it. People will probably understand what you mean, but it sounds wrong to me.

Ask instead:

  • "Do you have a Facebook account?"
  • "Are you on Facebook?"
  • "Do you use Facebook?"

And note Facebook should be capitalised.

Finally, the website Facebook was named after the face book or facebook, a university directory of names and photos. The original question could possibly be misinterpreted to refer to these.

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Yeah... I just tried it with the question marks inside the quotes, which cleaned up the results a bit. The first 6 hits are pure "Do you have a facebook?" so some people must be saying it. I would love to be able to plot that geographically. –  Roaring Fish Jun 21 '12 at 10:51
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You are way ahead of me! I was just looking for the terms and conditions to see if they capitalise it in there, and you are right - they do. I guess I will have to stop being lazy and write 'Facebook' now. –  Roaring Fish Jun 21 '12 at 10:56
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@RoaringFish: You can plot tweets geographically here. –  Hugo Jun 21 '12 at 11:26
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I find that "Are you on Facebook" has the best balance between brevity and correctness. –  Martijn Jun 21 '12 at 15:02
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Do you also think it's wrong when people say "Do you have a Honda?" and prefer that they say "Do you have a Honda automobile"? In my experience, among Facebook's main users (college students, young people) "do you have a facebook?" is by far the most common way to ask this question, and as my car example indicates, there's nothing unusual about using a company's name to indicate the product the company provides. –  alcas Jun 25 '12 at 0:48
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It's grammatical, but unclear. The addition of account removes any ambiguity.

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Thanks a lot! Either way, I would never say it myself. –  knsmr Jun 21 '12 at 12:52
    
How is it unclear? –  Colin Fine Jun 21 '12 at 14:45
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@ColinFine - For folks who don't actually have a Facebook account (and thus probably aren't all that familiar with it), which is clearly a possibility if the question is being asked in the first place, it sounds like the questioner is asking about some special kind of book (perhaps a photo album?). –  T.E.D. Jun 21 '12 at 14:56
    
@T.E.D.: For somebody who hasn't heard of Facebook, that is a possibility - but asking about a Facebook account will if anything increase the confusion. For somebody who has heard of Facebook but is not familiar with it, that suggestion is irrelevant, but the addition of "account" will not clarify anything. The only possible unclarity I can see would be between a Facebook account and a Facebook page, but that's a not a difference that's going to arise for many people. –  Colin Fine Jun 21 '12 at 15:12
    
@ColinFine: The website Facebook was named after the face book or facebook, a directory of photos. –  Hugo Jun 21 '12 at 15:48
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It's nothing to do with grammar, it's simply about the meaning of the word.

I am not familiar with "Facebook" used in that way, but it would not surprise me at all to hear it.

Similarly, on the Wikipedia help desk, I have often encountered people using "a Wikipedia" to mean "an article in Wikipedia".

Languages change as their speakers and writers innovate (whether consciously or unconsciously).

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+1. I don't know if I agree with the bold claim that "it's nothing to do with grammar" -- the question is whether it has a countable common-noun sense, which has a grammatical dimension as well as a semantic one -- but the rest of your answer more than compensates for that quibble. :-) –  ruakh Jun 21 '12 at 14:56
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Leaving aside the grammar, I have never heard anybody say "Do you have a facebook?", so the people in my life don't say it. There could be regional aspects to it though, in the mobile/cellphone/handphone way.

I have heard "Do you have facebook?", "Do you use facebook?", or "Are you on facebook?", but never 'a facebook'.

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If you want to see it, you can search Twitter to find all sorts of mangled English! –  Hugo Jun 21 '12 at 10:44
    
See my comment on your post... we must have crossed in cyberspace somewhere! –  Roaring Fish Jun 21 '12 at 10:46
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This problem comes from conflating the underlying technology (specifically, its branding) with its instantiation. But to answer your question, people definitely say "do you have a Facebook." Usually neophytes.

I don't think it's a question of grammar but rather semantics.

So if you have a Facebook that doesn't make sense, unless you've mirrored the site somehow.

You may have a Facebook page, or account, but you can't have a Facebook.

Similar conflations:

  • Here is a Xerox of the passport (it's a photocopy, not a corporation)

  • I checked my email (very pervasive usage; you check the email server not the email)

Sometimes these conflations are very cleverly managed/avoided. For example, Twitter has most people correctly distinguishing between Twitter and tweeting.

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The kind of Facebook that you are referring to, there's only one such, that is the Facebook. (proper noun: use an uppercase F). You therefore cannot use the indefinite article. Rest is fine.

"Do you have Facebook"?

Facebook here can and does mean a Facebook account, per usage.

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This is slowly driving me insane. I don't know if there is a linguistic term for this, but the trend is to drop the noun from an adjective-noun pair and treat the adjective as the noun.

  • "Try our high speed online!" instead of online service
  • "Send me a Facebook" instead of Facebook message (I'm pretty sure they don't mean the company)
  • "What version of Microsoft do you use?"

The contrary would be when an acronym/initialism becomes an adjective and is redundantly added as a noun.

  • PIN Number
  • ATM Machine
  • HIV Virus
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People who ask me "What version of Microsoft do you use?" are likely to get shot. Unlike Facebook, they make, oh, about six dozen products. Even when you narrow down to the most widespread, is the answer "2007" or "XP"? Far more common is dropping the brand name out of the full product name: only rarely am I asked "What version of Microsoft Outlook are you using", and they don't usually want "Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010" as an answer. –  Yamikuronue Jun 21 '12 at 17:24
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You mean like centennial (noun from 1876), relative (noun from 1650 in the family sense) poor (noun from 1225)? –  Colin Fine Jun 22 '12 at 10:12
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protected by RegDwigнt Jun 21 '12 at 20:48

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