English Usage Topics > Telephoning

Telephoning

In the examples in this entry, A is the person answering the phone, and B is the person who is making the phone call.

Answering the phone

There are several ways of answering the telephone when someone phones you. Most people answer the telephone by saying 'Hello'.
A: Hello.
B: Hello. It's me.
You can also give your name or, if you are at work, you can give the name of your organization or department. You can say 'Good morning' or 'Good afternoon' instead of 'Hello'.
A: Parkfield Medical Centre.
B: Hello. I'd like to make an appointment to see one of the doctors this morning please.
A: Hello. Tony Parsons speaking.
B: Oh, hello. It's Tom Roberts here.
A: Good morning.
B: Good morning. Who am I speaking to?
A: Er, my name is Alan Fentiman.
Some people say 'Yes?' when answering a phone call, especially one within an organization, but this can sound abrupt and rude.
If you recognize the person's voice when they say 'Hello', you can say 'Hello' followed by their name.
A: Hello.
B: Hello, Jim.
A: Hello, Alex, how are you?
If you don't recognize the caller's voice, you can ask who it is. If you are at home, you say 'Sorry, who is it?' or 'Who is this?'
A: Hello.
B: Hello.
A: Sorry, who is it?
B: It's me, Terry.
If you think you know who the caller is, you say, for example, 'Is that James?' or 'That's James, isn't it?'
A: Hello.
B: Hello. Can I speak to John?
A: I'm afraid he's just gone out. Is that Sarah?
B: Yes.
If you are at work, and the caller wants to speak to someone else, you say 'Who's calling?' or 'Who's speaking?'
B: Hello, could I speak to Mrs George, please?
A: Who's calling?
B: The name is Pearce.
A: Hold on a minute, please.
If the caller has got through to the wrong number, you say something like 'I think you've got the wrong number' or 'Sorry, wrong number'.
A: Hello.
B: Mrs Clough?
A: No, you've got the wrong number.
B: I'm sorry.

Telephoning someone

When you are phoning a friend or relative, you can just say 'Hello' when they answer the phone, if you think they will recognize your voice. You can add their name.
A: Hello.
B: Hello! I just thought I'd better ring to let you know what time I'll be arriving.
A: Hello.
B: Hello, Alan.
A: Hello, Mark, how are you?
B: Well, not so good.
After saying 'Hello' friends and relatives normally ask each other how they are.
If you need to make it clear who you are when you phone someone, you say 'It's' or 'This is' and your name.
A: Hello.
B: Hello. It's Jenny.
A: Hello.
B: Hello, Alan. This is Eila.
You can also say 'It's ... here'.
A: Hello.
B: It's Maggie Turner here.
Sometimes you do not need to give your name, for example when you are asking for general information.
A: Citizen's Advice Bureau.
B: Hello. I'd like some advice about a dispute with my neighbours.
If you are not sure who has answered the phone, you say 'Who am I speaking to?' or, informally, 'Who's that?'
A: Hello.
B: Hello. Who am I speaking to, please?
A: Yes?
B: I want to speak to Mr Taylor.
A: I'm afraid Mr Taylor's not in the office right now.
B: Who's that?
You can check that you have the right person, organization, or number by saying 'Is that...?, or by just saying the name or number like a question.
A: Hello.
B: Is that Mrs Thompson?
A: Er, yes it is.
B: This is Kaj Mintti from Finland.
A: Hello.
B: Hello? 435 1916?
A: Yes?
Note that American speakers usually say 'Is this...?' instead of 'Is that...?'
A: Hello.
B: Hello. Is this the Casa Bianca restaurant? I want to speak with Anna. Anna di Pietro.

Asking to speak to someone

If the person who answers the phone is not the person you want to speak to, you say, for example, 'Can I speak to Paul, please?' or 'Is Paul there?'
A: Hello.
B: Can I speak to Sue, please?
A: Hang on – I'm sorry, but she's not in at the moment.
B: Can I leave a message?
A: Yes.
B: Would you tell her that Adrian phoned?
If you are making a business call, you say, for example, 'Could I speak to Mr Green, please?' or just say the name of the person or department you want, followed by please.
A: William Foux and Company.
B: Er, good afternoon. Could I speak to Mr Duff, please?
A: Oh, I'm sorry, he's on another line at the moment. Can you hold?
B: No, it's all right. I'll ring later.
A: British Gas.
B: Customer services, please.
A: I'll put you through.
If the person you are speaking to is in fact the person you want, they sometimes say 'Speaking'.
A: Personnel.
B: Could I speak to Mr Wilson, please.
A: Speaking.
B: Oh, right. I wanted to ask you a question about sick pay.

Ending a phone call

When you end a phone call, you say 'Goodbye' or, informally, 'Bye'.
A: I'm afraid I can't talk right now.
B: OK, I'll phone back after lunch.
A: OK. Goodbye.
B: Goodbye.
A: I'll just check. Yes, it's here.
B: Oh, OK. Thanks. Bye.
People sometimes also say 'Speak to you soon' or 'Thanks for ringing'.
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