Must-know Phone Phrases ☎️ Talk Confidently On The Telephone in English!
Phone talk! How do you feel about talking on the phone in English?
If you can’t speak on the phone in English, come and practise with me!
Learn over 20 useful phrases and expressions that you can use during phone conversations.
This is Phone English PART 1:
- Answering a call (& starting a phone conversation)
- Request information
- Check you understood
Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and today you are gonna learn some useful phrases and expressions to… speak on the phone in English. Many of my students tell me that phone conversations in English make them feel stressed! So I want to take the stress and the fear out of making phone calls or taking a phone call.
I’ve actually split this lesson in two because there are lots of really great telephoning expressions to learn.
So this first lesson is one where I’m going to teach you the exact phrases to start a phone call and to introduce yourself clearly, to request information or perhaps help and to request clarification if you need it or check that you heard someone correctly.
Part two will be here for you in just a couple of days so make sure you subscribe and you turn on notifications so that you know as soon as it’s here for you.
Right now, let’s practise!
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I think that one of the trickiest things about phone calls is that you really only have your listening skills to rely on. You can’t see the other person so you’re missing out on a lot of the non-verbal communication tools that we use like facial expressions and hand gestures and things like that.
In phone conversations, it is so important, so crucial that you take some extra steps to make sure that you’re clear as you communicate and that your tone of voice helps with that communication.
What do you want?
In today’s lesson, I want you to pay attention to the words and the phrases that I use but I also want you to focus on the tone of my voice. Your tone is more important than you realise when you’re speaking on the phone.
It really is the first few seconds of any phone call that feels the most nerve-wracking so starting out confidently and really nailing those first few seconds is going to help you to give a good impression and help you to feel more confident about the rest of the call.
So let’s start with someone calling you because when you’re answering the call, there are many different ways that you can greet someone, right?
Hello isn’t the only way that you can start and the tone of your voice will really determine how the rest of the conversation unfolds.
Hey, how’s it going?
Hello, this is Emma.
Hey, this is Emma.
If you want to sound really casual or friendly you could say:
But if you really want to take charge of a call and present yourself with a little bit more confidence then this is helpful in a professional setting or maybe when you’re expecting an important call.
You could try something like:
- Hello, Emma speaking.
- Hey, this is Emma.
Did you notice how my facial expression changes as I answer depending on how serious I want to sound? This really does impact the tone of your voice and it’s a useful tool to help you communicate really clearly when you’re on the phone.
And when you pick up the phone and you see the name of someone that you know quite well, of course, you can greet them directly, right?
- Hi Suzy, how are you going?
On the other hand, when you’re the one making the call, a really good way to start is by greeting the other person and then introducing yourself before they even ask. If you’re calling someone that you don’t know, you could say:
- Hi, my name’s Emma!
And then explain the reason for your call.
- I’m calling about a lost parcel.
- Hello, this is Emma, I’m just returning your call.
But if you’re calling someone that you know you can just say:
- Hey, it’s Emma.
And actually, if this person knows you well enough to recognise your voice then you can just say:
- Hey, it’s me.
This is usually only appropriate with people that you’re close with, kind of gets a little bit creepy if you’re doing it to someone who doesn’t really know you very well.
Hello, it’s me.
It’s also a good idea to take a moment to check whether or not the person that you’ve called is free to talk at the moment.
- Hey, is this a good time to talk?
- Have you got five minutes to chat?
This is a really polite way to move along from the initial greeting and into the more important or the business part of your call, the reason why you’re calling.
But what about when you don’t really have time to talk or it’s not a good time to talk? What do you say then?
Sometimes we need to get off the phone quickly because you’re in the middle of something else so you can easily let them know by saying:
- Hi. I’m in a meeting right now, can I call you back in about half an hour?
Now one of the main reasons why we make a phone call in the first place is to find something out or to request some information. So it’s really important that you let that person know exactly why you’re calling. Make it really clear at the start of the conversation.
- Hello, this is Emma. I’m calling to find out how long my delivery will take?
- Hi there. I’m a customer of yours. I’d like to speak to someone about my account.
You can also introduce the purpose of your call with a really direct statement. Be clear.
- There’s a strange charge on my bill. Could you tell me why it’s here?
Sometimes you might hit a dead end. That’s when the person that you’re talking to is not able to give you any helpful or relevant information.
So you might need to try a slightly different strategy at that time.
- Is there someone else I can speak to about this?
- Can you direct me to the right person to talk to about this?
Okay let’s talk about some of the phrases that you can use to get yourself out of trouble on the phone so those times when you’re listening to someone and you don’t understand what they’re saying.
Maybe it’s a word that you missed or it’s a whole sentence. You feel kind of stuck, you’re paralysed. Where do you go from here? What do you do?
Firstly, don’t worry. Don’t think it’s something wrong with you, it happens to all of us, native speakers as well. What we usually do is we check what we’ve heard and we check that it’s correct to make sure that we’ve understood correctly.
- Did you say…?
And then all you need to do is complete the rest of that sentence with what you thought you heard them say.
- Did you say that the cafe closes on Sunday?
Sometimes it might not be you, it’s the connection. The connection’s bad or it’s fuzzy or it cuts out and it’s really hard to hear.
You don’t always have to say that I don’t understand you. There are other ways to confirm the information that you heard or get them to repeat what they said or to say it a little bit more clearly so you could try:
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.
Saying something like this will prompt the other person to repeat what they said. It just means I didn’t hear you or I didn’t understand what you said.
You can also say:
- Sorry, it cut out. Could you repeat that?
So the phone line was cut, something happened and you couldn’t hear what they said clearly.
Or another way to say the same thing is to say that the connection’s bad.
- Sorry, the connection’s really bad. I can’t hear you.
- Can you repeat it?
Sometimes people are just in a noisy place or maybe they’re speaking too quickly.
- Sorry, would you mind slowing down a little?
And sometimes it’s just hard to understand and you need to clarify the information. It’s important that it’s correct.
- Was that F for free or S for sun?
Letters like F, S, M, N, they can be notoriously difficult to understand.
They’re easy to misunderstand over the phone so it’s really handy if you have some other really simple, identifiable words that help you to be super clear.
We often say things like: M for Mary, N for number, that kind of thing.
So that’s it for this lesson!
You’ve learned over twenty extremely useful expressions and phrases that are used when talking on the phone. They’re all ones that will help you to sound more professional when you speak on the phone and help you to confidently make other important phone calls, maybe to the bank, to make an appointment. This type of thing.
And this was just part one! In part two I’m going to teach you some more important phone skills that will help you to interrupt someone politely, to ask someone to wait, to show your appreciation and of course, how to end that phone call. So make sure you subscribe to the channel just down there, turn on notifications so that you know as soon as part two is here for you.
I’ve also made you a really handy worksheet that includes all of the phrases you need to have successful telephone conversations in English.
It’s going to be really handy to keep beside you at your desk or by your phone at home so that you can easily grab at these phrases when you need them and learn to use them more fluently over time.
The link to that worksheet is down in the description below and if you want to come and practise speaking with me in a phone conversation dialogue, this lesson right here will help you do that.
Let’s get in there now!
Links mentioned in the video
5 Tips To Improve Your Listening Skills
45 Advanced Phrases For English Confident Conversation
You’re FROZEN! 15 IDIOMS for Working From Home!