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For Students: Telephoning

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Over the last couple of weeks I have received a handful of phone calls, all of them not for me. How? - I don't know – Why? - I don't know. One phone call was from a company letting me know that my underwear had arrived and is ready for collection. For a split second, I thought, hmmm I could do with some new underwear... but kindly told the woman who called how she had the wrong number.

What I also thought was about the language she used and how in English we have many phrasal verbs and expressions we can use when talking on the phone, both informally and formally. And that's where I'd like to go today, to the language of telephoning.

First let's take a look at the many phone phrasal verbs which we can use. Don't forget these are verbs and they change their form with the tense used.

Pick upAnswer don't pick up! I don't want him to come with us.

Hang upTo end a callAs soon as I started talking about football she hung up.

We got cut off* when you get disconnected unexpectedly, usually because of a poor connectionSorry, we got cut off, I'm in the middle of a field, I only have 2 bars.

You keep breaking up* – when what the person is saying is unclear I' S rr I'll hav a call you ck …

Could you put (name) on* - when we ask for the phone to be given to another person ' Hi, Mum, could you put David on

Hang on/hold on I'll … - asking someone to wait Have you got a pen to write this down? Hang on I'll just get one.

Call backto return a call at a later time – I'm a bit busy now, I'll call you back in 30


Can you call back? - to ask someone to call again at a later time - I'm busy now, can you call back?

I'll call back later - to call someone again at a later time - OK, no problem, I'll call back later and see if he is in the office then.

To Put someone through - to connect one phone to another (often receptionists do this)- Hi, Jane, can you put me through to room 505

Speak upto increase the volume of your voice – You need to speak up, it's very noisy here

Top upto add money onto your phone – I can't call you because I have no credit. I need to top up

To put someone on hold - to place someone in waiting - I'm going to put you on hold until an engineer is free to talk you through the steps to fix your problem

To get through - to be successful after long periods of waiting - Did you get the tickets? No, I couldn't get through to order them!

* these are how the phrasal verbs are often used in an expression

A few extras, not phrasal verbs, but useful while we are on the topic of calling.

Engaged – when the phone line is busy

To be on hold - when you're waiting. Usually listening to some annoying music

Landline – a main phone in the house or office.

Signal – the 'bars' on your phone Credit - the money you have available on your phone

a flat/dead battery – when there isn't any power on your phone

a dying battery – when your phone's battery is very low

have you got a spare plug (I could use)? - when you need a power socket

Sorry, you have the wrong number - the phrase to use .....

Let's now try and put the one or more of the words above into the conversations below.

Conversation #1

a.Hi, James, is Bob there?

b.Yeah, ….................I'll just get him


a.Hey Bob, it's James, I was wondering if you fancied going to the Coldplay gig tonight

c.James, I'm just having my dinner. Let me …............ in 10 minutes

Answers: Hang/hold on I'll / Call you back

Conversation #2

a.Hi Sue, did you call James?

b.Yeah, but he was …..........

a.We need to agree where to meet because my battery …..........

b. OK I think that we could meet at...

c. What happened, Sue?

b. We got .......... he said her battery was ......... I don't know how we can call her

Answers: Engaged/dying/cut off/dying

Conversation #3

a.Hi John, I'm on my way to London

b.Great, what time will you be here?

a.I' n t sure but I think n a uple of hours bout

b..................................... say that again

a. I aid at in

b. It's no good. ............. ..................

Answers: You keep breaking up / You keep breaking up / I'll call you back

When it comes to formal communication we have another set of expressions which we use.

The Caller

Could I speak to a Mr/Mrs/Ms <name> please

I am calling you regarding <reason> - I'm calling about...

Could you put me through to Mr/Mrs/Ms <name> - I need to speak to <name>

Could I leave a message for <name> -

Could you tell me when he/she will be back -

Would it be possible to.... - can I ask you to ....

It's <name> from <company name>

That's everything/all thanks.

The Receiver

Hello, <Name> <Company name>

Could I ask who is calling?

If you could bare with me, I'll just go and see if he/she available

I am afraid she/he isn't available right now, can I take a message?

I am afraid she is not in the office right now

If you give me your number, I'll get her to call you when he/she's back

Is it urgent?

Can I take a message?

Can I get her to call you later?

Is there anything else I can help you with?

I'm just going to put you on hold

How do you spell that? / Could you spell your <!> for me please

Is that C for Charlie?

I will pass on that information on to him/her

Have a nice day / Enjoy your day

Conversation. Use one of the phrases from above to complete the formal conversation

___________________ C Could I speak to Mr/Mrs/Ms <name> please

Can I ask who is calling? R

_____________________ C It's Sangbang Fuk from Noodle Ltd

Could you spell your name for me please. C

S-A-N-G-B-A-N-G F-U-K. R

_____________________________________ R Thank you, Mr Fuk. If you just bare with me, I'll check to see he/she is available

_____________________________________ R I'm afraid she is not in the office at the moment

_____________________________________ R Can I take a message?

Yeah. If you could let her know Max won't be at the BMW conference tomorrow

_____________________ R I will pass on that information on to her

Is there anything else I can help you with? R

No that's everything, thanks


Cheers - Native English speaker and English teacher in Lviv

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