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Suppose that you are at your aunt's or uncle's house for dinner with your family. Not really for fun. It's just a common gathering talking together with relatives. In fact you are a guest. Suddenly your girlfriend or boyfriend calls you. You answer the phone and say this sentence to him/her:

Hi, Sarah/Alex. May I call you back later? I'm at a party and can't talk to you very well.

My question is whether I can use the word party in this context, or is it (party) mostly used when you have a lot of fun?

  • family party, perhaps? – Dan Aug 6 '17 at 11:18
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    A family gathering or family meal or simply with my family are all phrases I'd happily use. – Steve Lovell Aug 6 '17 at 11:45
  • You can call it whatever you want. Nothing wrong with "party" -- it's just a group of people together for some purpose. I don't think the folks in the Donner Party were having much fun. – Hot Licks Aug 6 '17 at 12:17
  • One thing a native speaker would rarely ask a boyfriend or girlfriend is May I call you back later? We would use can I. Yes, this might contradict some foreign language textbook which knows nothing about colloquial English, but that's one strength of getting to ask a bunch of native speakers. – AmE speaker Aug 6 '17 at 13:18
  • The simplest thing to say is Hi, Sarah/Alex. Can I call you back later? I can't talk right now. – AmE speaker Aug 6 '17 at 14:02
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The simplest thing to say is

Hi, Sarah/Alex. Can I call you back later? I can't talk right now.

If you feel compelled to mention a place you can say

Hi, Sarah/Alex. Can I call you back later? I'm at my uncle's/aunt's (place) and I can't talk right now.

This answer represents idiomatic English. We usually don't use May I when talking with friends. And we wouldn't say I can't talk to you very well. If you wanted something similar, you could say I can't talk freely now but that is not necessary (and would rarely be stated) in this context.

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