I'm looking for a term or single word that can be used as the opposite of "in person" in situations we might be involved in a given activity without our direct (physical) presence, like:

  • Taking online courses instead of taking part in classes

    "_____ courses" vs "in-person courses"

  • Having a videoconference instead of meeting someone in person

    "_____ meeting" vs "in-person meeting"

  • Having an interview over the phone instead of a face-to-face interview

    "_____ interview" vs "in-person interview"

  • Shopping online instead of going to the market

    "_____ shopping" vs "in-person shopping"

I have found "absentee" like in "absentee vote" but I don't think it can be used as the opposite of "in person".

Is there really any opposite for "in person" that can be used generally, so that I can fill all those blanks with that?

  • 8
    "Remote" is the general case. You can also use "video" or "online" or "via Skype" or some such for specific cases.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 19:47
  • I see, thanks for your comment,@HotLicks. Are those "in-person" phrases in my examples used in ordinary conversations (I mean : in-person courses/ meeting/interview/shopping)?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:16
  • 1
    The the in-person class is a "classroom course", the meeting & interview are "face-to-face", the shopping I can't say.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:45
  • An idiom that works in certain cases here is to,"phone it in" Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:53
  • 3
    @CandiedOrange "phone it in" often refers to putting in low effort rather than conducting an activity from a distance. Even if the speaker means it literally it is likely to be misinterpreted. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 22:55

6 Answers 6



Harvard Law School website has a section on Remote Interviewing which may be Telephone Interviews or Skype/Videoconference Interviews.

Quoting dictionary.cambridge.org:

remote adjective (DISTANT)

specialized internet & telecoms remote ​computer ​systems are ​available to ​users in another ​part of a ​building or in another ​place, for ​example through a ​network:

This ​enables you to get remote ​access to ​your ​email. a remote ​server

Tweaking phrases in queston:

Taking a course remotely

A remote participant in the conference.

Having a remote interview.

  • 2
    Thanks, @K1eran. If I want to say "You can do all your bank affairs via Internet and without going there in person", can I say "You can do all your bank affairs remotely"?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 18:11
  • 3
    @Soudabeh You absolutely can, though if it's specifically via internet you could also just say "You can do all your banking online." Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 18:17
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    In that case, it's a little unusual by virtue of not being as widely-used as the aforementioned terms, but still natural enough that you can use them without a problem. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 18:25
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    There's a very subtle difference between "remote" and "online", in that "remote" tends to only be used within the context of working, and i think the key difference is that it's seen as a kind of "not doing it in person like normally expected". So if i say i'm "working remotely today" or "i'm working online today" i think they have the same meaning. But to say "I'm going to be shopping remotely today" suggests that the shop was expecting me to come in, and i'm going to do it remotely instead, which isn't the case (ie they weren't expecting me). Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:03
  • 1
    Remote is absolutely right. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:56

I've never seen it used in this context, but I think it would be a good use of "virtual". Wikipedia defines "virtual" among other meanings as "Operating by computer or in cyberspace; not physically present".

  • 2
    please consider adding a dictionary reference and cut-and-paste of the definition to strengthen you response.
    – jimm101
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 19:50
  • Virtual technically works (it was the first word that popped to my mind), but I don't think you'd hear very many people use it in the manner given. M-W has "being on or simulated on a computer or computer network <print or virtual books> <a virtual keyboard>: as a : occurring or existing primarily online <virtual shopping>". Google has "carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network." I think the biggest issue here is it doesn't normally apply to phone/VTC.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 5:56

On-line... Yes, today on-line refers mainly to experiences over the internet, and if you look it up in a dictionary (at least the ones I just looked in) the definition is singularly linked to such experiences. However I own several old warranty cards and manuals from before the invent of said internet referring to on-line help being available at some phone no.

So clearly the dictionaries have it wrong. On-line means "over the phone", and thus by extension also over the internet (as the internet initially was transmitted over the phone line)


I advise you in absentia.

As suggested by @"K1eran" and @"Hot Licks", you can (should) use "remote" as a savvy antonym to "in-person" for referring to activity someone does (i.e. of someone in subject position). This is perfect for your use cases.

I like having options tho, so I'll give you another one just for fun.

"In absentia" is a slightly more formal sounding alternative suitable for referring to someone being acted upon remotely (i.e. one in object position).

Two not-quite-identical statements to illustrate a subtle difference: A) "As I remotely advise you, you are advised in absentia." B) "As I advise you in absentia, you are advised remotely."

In both sentences, it is my advisement that is remote, and you who are subjected to it in absentia.

So you can express the same idea with either "remote" or "in absentia", tho they have slightly different meanings. In conversation one can usually get by with just "remote", without ever needing "in absentia". Conversation is better if you vary your expressions tho!

To add a humorously awkward nerd flavor, you could use a sentence with "in absentia" in place of nearly every sentence with "remote" and still make logical sense. It would seem gratuitously absurd, tho. Please don't abuse this option :)

  • 2
    Eh I'm not sure. 'In absentia' really means that you are absent, i.e.: not able to participate. If you were being remotely interview you're not absent, you're just not sharing a physical location and are instead communicating remotely. See things like 'trial in absentia'.
    – Herr Pink
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:50
  • 2
    @HerrPink in absentia means "unable to attend", not "unable to participate". In some cases, participation requires attendance (e.g. court processions), so being in absentia may imply being unable to participate in those scenarios. However, "voting in absentia", for example, allows a voter to cast their vote even if they're not present in the region where they're registered as a voter.
    – talrnu
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:06
  • @talrnu please note that trial in absentia means that you are not simply not present, e.g. attending by tele-presence, but the trial is being conducted with the foreknowledge that you will not participate and may not even be aware that the trial is being held. This is the case where the accused is known but may not be able to be reached. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 20:56
  • @SteveBarnes Thanks for clarification. I imagine the term is used to describe the expected absence of the accused rather than the case where the accused attends remotely because the former is probably more prevalent, especially historically. Succinctness being so critical in law, I imagine nobody would care to use the term to describe the latter case in a legal context - perhaps never, given the ubiquity of the meaning of the phrase "trial in absentia" and its prevalence even in popular media.
    – talrnu
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 21:12
  • @talrnu - In the legal context they specifically wouldn't use in absentia if the accused were to "attend" by some technological means - it is becoming more prevalent when there is risk to or from the accused for them to attend by tele-presence from a jail or police station and in child rape cases it is very common for witnesses to "appear" in such a manner. Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 7:11

Distance, perhaps.

Tuition in which contact between students and teacher is principally by correspondence or broadcast programmes, rather than face to face is often referred to as distance learning.(OED)

Although not commonly used, 'distance' would also serve for your other examples - meeting/interview/shopping.


Absentia has its origins in latim and the meaning is "not in a certain place". In english: absence. Something like, if you ask me for Paul in New York and my answer is "He is not here. He is in Texas".

Absentivus: far from here for a long time.

  • This post could be improved by show example usages of the words.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 2:10

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