Successful telephone conversations in a foreign language are sometimes a real challenge – but are often part of everyday work, especially in international companies. With these phrases, you will gain confidence for every situation during a telephone call.
Answering a call
• Thank you for calling LinkedIn. Sally speaking. How can I help you?
• Good morning/afternoon/evening, SAP Consultancy, Sarah Smith speaking.
• Hello, this is Nadja Forest, who‘s calling please?
• This is Sarah Smith speaking.
• Hello, this is Nadja Forest calling.
• Hello, this is Nish Patel from India International.
• Good morning, this is John Richardson calling from IT-Relations.
State the reason for the call
Once you‘re through, it‘s time to say why you‘re calling as soon as possible; after all, „time is money“!
• I‘m calling about …
• Can we arrange an appointment?
• I‘m calling to confirm …
• I‘m returning your call.
• Could I speak to the person who …
• I‘d like to talk to the person responsible for …
Ask for the person you‘d like to speak to by name if possible:
• Could I speak to Sarah Smith, please?
• I‘d like to speak to Nadja Forest please.
• Could you put me through to Nish Patel, please?
Making an excuse
If you have answered a call and have to make an excuse for a colleague, these phrases will help:
• I‘m sorry, the line‘s busy / engaged, would you like to call back later?
• I‘m afraid he‘s away on business.
• She‘s not at her desk right now.
• I‘m afraid Mr Patel isn‘t in at the moment.
• I‘m sorry, she‘s in a meeting today.
• I‘m afraid she‘s on another line.
• I‘m afraid Sarah‘s not available.
If you do have to give an excuse for a colleague, don‘t forget to ask the caller if s/he has a message and make sure that you note this down correctly: get the caller‘s name, company, department if necessary, and telephone number, as well as the reason for the call. Write the date, time and your own name as message-taker on the note too!
• Would you like to leave a message?
• Can I take a message?
• I‘ll tell her that you rang / called.
• I‘ll ask him / her to call you back as soon as possible.
• I‘ll make sure s/he gets the message.
Problems in hearing or understanding
Problems in hearing or understanding occur fairly often in telephone conversations; either due to language difficulties, or due to the connection. Don‘t be afraid to ask for help / repetition – even a native speaker often has to do this.
• I‘m sorry, I don‘t understand. Could you speak more slowly, please?
• I‘m sorry, I can‘t hear you very well, could you speak up a little, please?
• Sorry, I didn‘t quite catch that. Could you repeat that please?
• Would you mind repeating that?
• Did you say the thirteenth? One three?
• Could I take your name please?
• Could you spell that for me please?
• Can you call me back? We have a terrible line.
Once you have the information you need, it`s as well to make sure that you have noted everything down correctly:
• Let me repeat that, just to make sure.
• OK, I‘ve got that, it‘s 3232 2457.
• Let me read that back to you, …
• You said your name was Jude Cohen, is that right?
• Did you say 48 (four eight) Tifferton Street?
Telephone calls are often about obtaining information:
• Could you tell me if …
• I‘d like to know …
• Would you mind telling me …
• Do you / does your company …
As your partner cannot see you, it‘s important to keep making „listening noises“ so that s/ he knows you are still concentrating on the call:
• Mmm Hmmm.
Your partner should be aware of what you intend to do after the telephone call, so summarise and repeat whatever has been agreed as necessary:
• Right, so I‘ll make the arrangements and confirm by email then.
• I‘ll take care of the booking, then I‘ll send you an email with all the details.
• I‘ll get back to you by the end of business tomorrow.
End a phone call
Finally, the end of the call – but how to end it politely:
• Thanks for calling. Goodbye.
• I have another call coming through, I‘d better run. Bye.
• I‘m afraid that‘s my other line, sorry but I have to go. Bye.
• I‘m afraid I have to rush off to a meeting. I‘ll call you back. Bye.
Typical sentences on the phone – Checklist
Are you stuck for words sometimes on the telephone? Print out this handy list of useful phrases and hang it near the phone. This way, you can always get yourself out of a tight spot. With this checklist you can see at a glance how to avoid misunderstandings in an English telephone conversation and which phrases you can use to bring the telephone conversation to a successful conclusion.
Start a call
Company X, Sarah Smith speaking, how may/can I help you?
Good morning, I’d like to speak to Ms Patel please.
Good afternoon, this is Kelly Adams speaking. I’m phoning to enquire about/to ask/…
Could you put me through to Ms Godfrey please?
Could you connect me to extension 45 please?
Saying who you are
Yes, this is Ms Godfrey. Speaking.
I’m afraid he’s not in today.
I’m afraid he’s at lunch.
I’m afraid she’s on a business trip until the 12th.
I’m sorry but he’s on the other line.
I’m sorry but there’s no one answering.
I’m sorry but she’s in a meeting until three o’clock.
Sorry, the line’s busy/engaged. Will you hold?
Let me take your name and number. (May I ask) what you’re calling about? I’ll take that down and pass it on to Ms Taylor.
To clarify something
Could you speak up please?
Could you speak a bit more slowly please?
Could you say your name again please? What did you say your name was?
End a call
Thank you very much for calling. So, I’m looking forward to meeting you on the 14th then!