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Telephone English - Important Phrases

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Telephoning in English includes learning a number of special phrases, as well as focusing on listening skills. Some of the most important phrases include how to answer the phone:

Hello, this is Ken
Brighton 0987654

The first example response is in American English and the second is in British English. As you can see there are differences in both forms. The telephone articles include both British and American English, as well as phrases that are common to both forms.

In American English, we answer the phone stating "This is ..." In British English, it's common to answer the phone by stating the telephone number. The phrase "This is ..." is used only on the telephone to substitute the phrase "My name is ..." which is not used to answer the telephone.

Start with Role Playing

Begin by learning important telephone English with the dialogue below. Here is an example dialogue:

Operator: Hello, Frank and Brothers, How can I help you?
Peter: This is Peter Jackson. Can I have extension 3421?
Operator: Certainly, hold on a minute, I'll put you through...

Frank: Bob Peterson's office, Frank speaking.
Peter: This is Peter Jackson calling, is Bob in?

Frank: I'm afraid he's out at the moment. Can I take a message?
Peter: Yes, Could you ask him to call me at . I need to talk to him about the Nuovo line, it's urgent.

Frank: Could you repeat the number please?
Peter: Yes, that's , and this is Peter Jackson.

Frank: Thank you Mr Jackson, I'll make sure Bob gets this asap.
Peter: Thanks, bye.

Frank: Bye.

As you can see, the language is rather informal and there are some important differences to everyday English. Look at the chart below for key language and phrases used in telephone English:

Introducing yourself

This is Ken.
Ken speaking

Asking who is on the telephone

Excuse me, who is this?
Can I ask who is calling, please?

Asking for Someone

Can I have extension 321? (extensions are internal numbers at a company)
Could I speak to...? (Can I - more informal / May I - more formal)
Is Jack in? (informal idiom meaning: Is Jack in the office?

Connecting Someone

I'll put you through (put through - phrasal verb meaning 'connect')
Can you hold the line? Can you hold on a moment?
How to reply when someone is not available
I'm afraid ... is not available at the moment
The line is busy... (when the extension requested is being used)
Mr Jackson isn't in... Mr Jackson is out at the moment...

Taking a Message

Could (Can, May) I take a message?
Could (Can, May) I tell him who is calling?
Would you like to leave a message?

Continue practicing your skills by using the practical exercises below which include information on leaving messages on the telephone, how to ask native speakers to slow down, role plays on the telephone and more.

More Telephone English:

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