I saw the phrase: "called police on..." (a black couple, etc) frequently in newspapers. Is this proper usage?

  • 3
    Welcome to EL&U. If you see the phrase used frequently in newspapers, most of which have established standards for grammar and usage, what rule or practice do you think it would violate? Please edit your question to clarify.
    – choster
    Jul 9, 2018 at 17:26
  • 1
    @choster - I think that this construction can be easily confused with the phrasal verb “call someone on” which has a different connotation as explained in the answer below. Fr9m which, probably and understandably, the question.
    – user 66974
    Jul 9, 2018 at 20:05

2 Answers 2


It is arguable whether that specific phrasing is proper, but it is certainly common, and acceptable. For example:

"I called the police on my neighbor."

The proper phrasing would be much lengthier, such as:

"I called the police to ask them to intervene in a situation involving my neighbor."


A comment brought up a very similar phrasing which may confuse some:

To call someone on some thing

For example:

"I called the police on their loose relationship with the truth."

This is a colloquial terminology that means to confront someone regarding something. In this case, to confront the police regarding their dishonesty. It is not related to called some entity on some other entity.

  • 1
    I think it is unidiomatic, it just means call someone on something (for something that may have happened )
    – user 66974
    Jul 9, 2018 at 16:40

Yes, I think so, if you were to say "I called the police on Bob" that would be correct.

  • 4
    Why do you think it's correct? We're looking for answers that provide explanations, not just yes/no votes in an opinion poll. Also, the question says "called police on" but you say "called the police on": are you claiming that "the" is needed for the sentence to be correct? (And, again, why?) Jul 9, 2018 at 17:40

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