I'm a second-language speaker of English.

I wonder if "punching a number" is still correct when calling on a smartphone and whether there are more precise alternatives?

  • 1
    What specifically do you mean by this? (You might mean phoning someone, entering a number that isn't a phone number, or something else similar.) Punch is in the dictionary for pressing a button or a key so it's somewhat applicable, but whether there's a more precise alternative depends on what precisely you mean.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 22 at 11:22
  • Sorry for being opaque. I mean in order to phone someone.
    – Swenglish
    Apr 22 at 13:39
  • 3
    Many people "dial" a number, others "type" it, still others still "punch" it; and no doubt there are others. Computers and phones have only been around since yesterday, so naturally we don't have special words for them and what they do and what we do with them. We use old words until the new ones are ready, and everybody uses what seems right to them. That's normal. Apr 22 at 13:54
  • 1
    @JohnLawler You have made my day: what we do with them. Allow me to add: what we do to them. They're practically people.
    – Lambie
    Apr 22 at 14:45
  • 1
    Punching a number into a smart phone or on a screen appears in popular fiction: examples
    – DjinTonic
    Apr 22 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


Modern smartphones interfaces include, contextual keyboards and number pads that appear whenever you need to enter alphanumeric characters. This makes data entry more akin to typing on a virtual keyboard than punching a mechanical key. So it would be correct to say that you "typed" a number.

  • So 'type a number' could be an alternative? That's good to know. Also, could 'tapping a number' work? Or, can it only mean connecting a listening device to a certain phone number?
    – Swenglish
    Apr 22 at 14:39
  • @Swenglish You tap a number if it is already on the smartphone screen.
    – Lambie
    Apr 22 at 14:46
  • Yes, that works in English. This is a bit off topic but tap is one of a few ways to interact with a smart phone touch screen, along with touch and "swipe". I've heard people saying that they swiped to reject or accept a call.
    – JuanNo
    Apr 22 at 22:57
  • It is not clear by what standard of correctness would this be correct. It would certainly be quite unusual.
    – jsw29
    Apr 23 at 15:39

Simply put, yes, you can say "punching a number". Modern alternatives are: typing, dialing, entering, inputting, or even calling. For example, you can say of your key pressing that you're "calling a number".

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