Here are some typical phrases that you can use in a telephone conversation:
ANSWERING THE PHONE
• Hello? (informal)
• Thank you for calling Learning English Center, Demi speaking. How can I help you?
• Doctor’s office.
• Hey Rina. It’s Julie calling. (informal)
• Hello, this is Julie calling.
ASKING TO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE
• Is Barry in? (informal)
• Can I talk to your sister? (informal)
• May I speak to Mrs. Kime, please?
— This is she. (formal)
• Would the doctor be in/available?
• Just a sec. I’ll get her. (informal)
• Hang on one second. (informal)
• Please hold and I’ll put you through to his office.
• One moment, please.
MAKING SPECIAL REQUESTS
• Could you please repeat that?
• Would you mind spelling that for me?
• Could you speak up a little, please?
• Can you speak a little slower, please? My English isn’t very strong.
• Can you call me back? I think we have a bad connection.
• Can you please hold for a minute? I have another call.
TAKING A MESSAGE FOR SOMEONE
• Barry’s not in. Who’s this? (informal)
• I’m sorry, Sonali’s not here at the moment. Can I ask who’s calling?
• He’s busy right now. Can you call again later?
• I’ll let her know you called.
• I’ll make sure she gets the message.
• I’m afraid she’s stepped out. Would you like to leave a message?
LEAVING A MESSAGE WITH SOMEONE
• Yes, can you tell him his wife called, please.
• No, that’s okay. I’ll call back later.
• When do you expect her back in the office?
• Thanks. Could you ask him to call Brian when he gets in?
• Okay. I’ve got it all down.
• Let me repeat that just to make sure.
• You said your name was Snehal, right?
FINISHING A CONVERSATION
• Well, I guess I better get going. Talk to you soon.
• Thanks for calling. Bye for now.
• I have to let you go now.
• I have another call coming through. I better run.
• I’ll talk to you again soon. Bye.
The most important thing on a telephone conversation is to be polite and friendly. The way that you speak to your best friend on the phone is very different to the way you should speak with someone in a business setting. Many ESL speakers make the mistake of being too direct on the telephone. It is possible that the person on the other line will think that you are being rude. Sometimes just one word such as “could” or “may” is necessary in order to sound polite.