Here are a few examples of phrases commonly used in telephone conversations. Obviously the people’s names and the company name are invented.
If an assistant answers the phone:
They say: Good morning, Company X, How can I help you?
You say [FORMAL]: Good morning / Good afternoon. My name is John Smith from Acme Co. May I speak to Jane Jones please?
You say [NEUTRAL]: Hello. This is John Smith. Can I speak to Jane Jones please?
You say [INFORMAL]: Hi, This is John Smith. Is Jane Jones there?
If the person you want to speak to is unavailable:
You say: When will he/she be back in the office?
You say: When would be a good time to call?
If the person you’re calling answers the phone:
They say: Hello. Jane Jones.
You say: Hi Jane. This is John Smith from Acme Co. Is it convenient to talk at the moment?
You say: Hi Jane. This is John Smith from Acme Co. Do you have a minute or two to discuss a couple of things?
You say: Hi Jane. This is John Smith from Acme Co. I have a couple of things I’d like to discuss with you.
How to answer the phone
If someone asks to speak to you, you say “Speaking” or “Yes, this is me”. Americans may say “This is he/she”.
If you are an assistant or secretary the following phrases will be useful:
Good morning / Good afternoon, Company X. How may I help you?
Please hold for a moment and I’ll see if Jane’s available.
Please hold the line and I’ll put you through.
One minute please, I’ll transfer you now.
I’m afraid she’s just gone out of the office for a moment. Would you like to leave a message? Or I can ask her to call you back?
Jane is in a meeting right now and she won’t be available until later this afternoon. Can I take a message?
Jane is talking on the other line right now. Would you like to hold or shall I ask her to call you back later?
Jane has left the office. Would you like me to take a message, or I can put you through to her voicemail?
Can I ask who’s calling?
Can I take your number?
Asking for clarification
Remember – always ask the caller for clarification if you didn’t understand some information. If you ask the caller to repeat something and you still don’t understand, ask them to repeat again – maybe giving the excuse that the line is bad and you can’t hear them very well.
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat that please?
I’m sorry, can you repeat that one more time? The line isn’t very good.
I’m sorry, can you repeat that a little more slowly? I can’t hear you very well.
How do you spell your last name?
And the company name is Acme Co. Is that correct?
Just let me repeat your information to make sure everything is correct.
Just let me repeat what you said to make sure everything is correct.
Problems with the line
Can you hear me OK?
I’m sorry I can’t hear you very well. Can you speak up a bit please? (i.e. speak louder)
Sorry, I lost you just then. Can you repeat what you just said?
The line seems very bad. I can’t hear you. Can I call you back?
You’re breaking up. Can I call you again later?
My battery’s about to run out. Can I call you back later?
Hi. It’s John again. We just got cut off.
Ending a conversation
OK. I’d better let you go. Thanks for your help.
I need to get going. I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes.
I’ve got another call coming in, so I’d better go.
Good to talk to you. Bye.
It’s been good talking to you. We’ll be in touch. Good bye.
Thanks for calling. I’ll speak with you again soon.
Thanks for calling. We’ll speak again soon.
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