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Is it grammatically correct to leave out in and write "She told her to phone him the morning of the next day" instead of "She told her to phone him in the morning of the next day"?

If not, why not, and does that rule have a name?

My English teacher (not a native English speaker) tells me it is wrong and that in must be in that sentence, but I don't get why. The task was to transform

Mrs. X: "Phone me tomorrow afternoon."

from direct into indirect speech. My answer was

Mrs X. told her to phone her the afternoon of the following day.

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I think native English speakers would be more likely to say "the following afternoon" rather than "the afternoon of the following day". –  Peter Shor Jul 11 '12 at 11:55
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4 Answers 4

No, there's nothing grammatically wrong with call him the morning of the next day. Arguably, it's semantically ambiguous (as in the old joke 'Call me a taxi.' All right, you're a taxi.') but in reality people accept this to avoid cumbersome phrasing; as Charles said, a native speaker would say call him the next morning. The further away the date is, the more likely it is that on will be used: call me tomorrow (not *on tomorrow), call me the next day or on the next day, but call me on Thursday (?Call me Thursday is used, but is informal).

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it sounds fine to me. (native American speaker)

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Thank you. :) My English teacher (no native speaker) tells me it is wrong. The "in" must be in that sentence but I don't get why. –  IchEben94 Jul 9 '12 at 18:09
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i think adding the "in" is actually worse... Better still is "She told her to phone him the next morning" –  Charles Jul 9 '12 at 18:11
    
However, my teacher is convinced that her version is best. How can I tell her that my version is correct as well and not worth cutting points. I need some strong arguments. –  IchEben94 Jul 9 '12 at 18:21
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@IchEben94: Show her this page! –  vonjd Jul 9 '12 at 18:44
    
@ vonjd: I studied one year in the U.S. and she hates when I do not accept what she is criticizing. She thinks that I think my English is better than her's. So there probably is no rule to prove that my sentence is right, is there? –  IchEben94 Jul 9 '12 at 18:47
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Of the two choices offered, that which leaves out in seems preferable. However, if "of the next day" is left off, include the word in, or otherwise reword:

She told her to phone him in the morning.
She told her to phone him the next day.

The former of these phrases may be ambiguous regarding if the morning is when she told her, vs. when the call is to be made. The original choices have the same ambiguity if the narration is completely past tense. Was it on the morning of the next day after some other event that she told her to phone him, or did she tell someone, "Phone him in the morning"? The ambiguity can be avoided by using a direct quote.

Edit (after context was added to question): One might convert «Mrs. X: "Phone me tomorrow afternoon."» to one of

Mrs X. said to phone during the afternoon of the next day.
Mrs X. said to phone during the next afternoon.
Mrs X. said to phone the next afternoon.
Mrs X. said to phone in the afternoon.

Phrase "the next day" would be left off if context makes it clear. "During" can be used as shown and cannot be replaced by in.

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The task was it to transform this sentence "Mrs. X: Phone me tomorrow afternoon." from direct into indirect speech. My answer: Mrs X. told her to phone her the afternoon of the following day. –  IchEben94 Jul 9 '12 at 18:28
    
@IchEben94: that's Mrs X asked him to phone her the next afternoon. –  TimLymington Jul 9 '12 at 18:31
    
@IchEben94: It was unclear that the task was that. You should clarify this in the question. For now, I decided to upvote jwpat's answer. –  user19148 Jul 9 '12 at 18:32
    
I know I expressed myself a little complicated with the afternoon of the following day but still, it is not wrong I suppose. –  IchEben94 Jul 9 '12 at 18:33
    
-1 because your point about "ambiguity" is misleading. All variations of "someone requested some action at some time" are inherently ambiguous. Only context can tell you whether the time specified refers to when the request was made, or when the action should take place. –  FumbleFingers Jul 9 '12 at 20:45
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To make it absolutely clear, English uses on with days, in with months.

Weekend takes on in Am. Eng.; at in Br. Eng. but decreasingly so; and perhaps over suggesting a longer event over the weekend.

Somteimes we say for with holidays: What are you doing for Christmas?

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But it also uses in rather than on with afternoons and mornings. So if you want to use a preposition in the OPs sentence, it would be "in the morning of the next day" and not "on the morning of the next day". I don't see how this answer is relevant. –  Peter Shor Jul 11 '12 at 11:56
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protected by J.R. Jul 11 '12 at 1:03

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