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Fill in the blank with the most suitable word.
“Hello. Can I speak to Mr James, please?”
“I’m sorry. He isn’t _____ at the moment. Can I take a message?”
A) In
B) On
C) At
D) Off

Last updated date: 23rd Jul 2024
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Hint: The words that we have to choose from are called prepositions, words that indicate position and relation of subject or object in a sentence. The noun with which it is used is called ‘complement’. When a preposition is used before this complement, it is referred to as ‘preposition’ itself. When it is used after the compliment, then it is referred to as ‘postposition.

Complete answer:
In the given sentence, we have the subject ‘He’, we have the verb ‘isn’t’ and a preposition phrase ‘at the moment’. Therefore, the blank can be filled with other parts of speech like adjectives, adverbs, prepositions etc. But the options provided are all prepositions. Therefore, we must use the correct preposition for indicating the position of the subject.

Now let us look at the given options:
Option A) In – If we fill the blank with ‘in’, the sentence will be “He isn’t in at the moment” and this sentence indicates that “he”, “Mr. James” is not present at the receiving end of the phone call. Another way to say the same thing would be “He is out at the moment.” This was an example of a positive voice, i.e. “he is” whereas the statement in the question is in the negative tone i.e. “he isn’t”. Both are equally correct. Thus, the option is correct.
Option B) On – When we fill the blank with ‘on’ the sentence will be “He isn’t on at the moment.” This preposition is inappropriate for this situation. It is used to indicate the days, or position of something. For e.g. He is on that bridge. He came here on Friday. Thus, this option is incorrect.
Option C) At – On using this preposition the sentence will become “He isn’t at the moment.” Using ‘at’ continuously does not make any sense. ‘At’ is used to indicate the place or the time or activity. For e.g. He was at home throughout the weekend. The train arrived at 8:30 pm. It started raining when we were at the football game. These are the correct examples of using ‘at’. Therefore, this option is also incorrect.
Option D) Off – ‘Off’ is used to indicate that something is out of position, or when someone is leaving or when we remove something. For e.g. Stop! You are driving off the road. Bye, mom, I’m off to school. Please take off your shoe before entering. Had the sentence been “He is __ to somewhere” then we could have used ‘off’. Hence, this option is also incorrect.

Thus, the correct answer is Option (A) i.e, “I’m sorry. He isn’t in at the moment. Can I take a message?”.

Note: We see in the question that the blank or the preposition was placed after the subject ‘He’. ‘He’ is the subject in the sentence and also the complement. Hence, we can say that ‘in’ is acting as a postposition in this particular sentence. Some other examples of postpositions are; This monument was built 500 years ago. The tickets for the event will go on sale, 5 pm onwards.