Speaking on the telephone is very different in English than other European cultures. First of all, English-speakers refer to themselves and the other person in third person. You say:
‘Hi, this is Lucia’ and not, ‘Hi, I am Lucia.’ And ‘Is this John?’ and not, ‘Are you John?’
This is different in other languages and so it is important to teach proper telephone etiquette.
Beyond that, here are some essential telephone vernacular to help your students make confident phone calls in English.
8 must-know phrases to teach your students
1# To call someone/ to ring someone
‘Hello, I rang you yesterday about the problem with our electricity bill.’
Irregular verb: To ring, rang, rung.
2# To dial a number – put a telephone number into your phone
‘In the USA you dial 911 for emergencies.’
3# To hang up the phone – when the call ends.
‘She ended the call and hung up the phone.’
Irregular verb: to hang up, hung up, hung up
4# To pick up the phone – when the call begins
‘I am not picking up any more calls from them today. They’ll have to email.’
5# To return a call/ to call someone back.
‘I can’t speak right now, I’ll call you back this afternoon.’
6# To get through to someone on the phone – to connect with someone.
‘Hello, I am trying to get through to Sarah.’
7# To hold the line – to wait for someone to answer while listening to music/ to ask someone else to wait while you find information.
‘Please hold the line while we try to connect you to the right department.’
8# To be put on hold – when you are waiting for someone to answer your call and you hear music.
‘I have been put on hold for the last twenty minutes!’
Irregular verb: To hold, held, held
Other telephone vocabulary
To answer a phone call.
A caller – person who calls
‘There is a caller on the line who wants to upgrade their package with us. Can you deal with it?’
To get cut off –the phone connection is interrupted by accident.
‘ We got cut off because the train went through a tunnel.’
The phone line is engaged or busy – you can’t connect because the line is already busy.
‘Every time I call them, the phone is always engaged!’
To receive a missed call.
‘Hello, I received a missed call from you this morning and so I am calling you back.’
Answerphone – an old machine used to record messages
Phone booth – a cabin for making calls
A headset – hands-free device connected to your phone
A smartphone – a modern mobile with internet
To buy more credit for your phone (for pay per call contracts).
‘Hello, I’d like to buy $20 of phone credit please.’To charge your phone battery.
To have coverage – the mobile network covers your area so you can make calls.
‘Oh no, the coverage here is terrible. I can barely hear you!’
To run out of battery – when the level of your phone battery decreases so you have to charge it.
‘My phone has run out of battery. Does anyone have a charger?’
Ringtone – the sound of a phone
The telephone network is down – the network doesn’t work temporarily.
‘The mobile network seems to be down right now, because I can’t make any calls.’
Voicemail/ to send a voicemail – voice messages on your mobile.
To text someone.
To send a text message.
To whatsapp someone.
To send a whatsapp.
Making a phone call
Greeting people on the phone
Hello, this is Alessandro.
Answering when you don’t know who is calling
Who is calling please?
Who is on the line please?
Ending a call
It was a pleasure to speak to you.
It was good to hear from you (when you were waiting for the call).
Have a nice day.
We’ll be in touch.
What telephone vocabulary have we missed? Put them in the comments below and we’ll add them to the list. Happy teaching!