Best phrases and tips for phone calls in English

January 4, 2019

I have always felt like it’s harder to speak a foreign language on the phone than face to face. It’s especially difficult to understand native English speakers on the phone, because sometimes they speak very fast and with a heavy accent.

On the phone, you can’t even use gestures and expressions to aid communication, but have to put every message into words as clearly and fluently and possible.

For this post, I asked our English experts for English phone conversation tips. They gave me a long list of useful phrases and recommended learning the radio alphabet, which makes it easier to spell out names. Enjoy!

Making a call

Hi, this is [your name] from [company name].
I’m calling to ask about…
May I speak with David, please?
Hi Sharon, this is [your name] returning your call.


Answering a call

[Company name], [your name] speaking.
Hi Paul, thanks for getting back to me.


Active listening

In English conversation, it’s important to indicate actively that you’re listening and understand what is being said. You can do this by repeating simple expressions like ”yes”, ”I see” and ”right”.


When you want to buy some time

When you want to check something during the call, you can buy some time with the following phrases:

One moment, please.
Just a minute, please.
Let’s see…
Let me think…
Let me check…


Taking a message

I’m sorry, he is not available at the moment.
I’m sorry, she is not in at the moment.
Would you like to leave a message?
Could I take your name and number, please?


When you can’t hear or don’t understand

Would you mind speaking up a bit? I can’t hear you very well.
Would you mind speaking a little slower? I’m having a little trouble understanding you.
Could you please write that in an e-mail?
Could you send me an email with the detailed offer?
Could you spell that for me, please?
Let me see if I got that right.


Spelling out names

When you’re asked to spell out your name, it’s easy to do if you can express letters as words. This is known as radio alphabet or spelling alphabet. Internationally, the most familiar radio alphabet is the so-called NATO alphabet. However, if you can’t remember the NATO alphabet, you can also use international first names, place names or other simple words.

A – Alfa
B – Bravo
C – Charlie
D – Delta
E – Echo
F – Foxtrot
G – Golf
H – Hotel
I – India
J – Juliett
K – Kilo
L – Lima
M – Mike
N – November
O – Oscar
P – Papa
Q – Quebec
R – Romeo
S – Sierra
T – Tango
U – Uniform
V – Victor
W – Whiskey
X – X-ray
Y – Yankee
Z – Zulu

The letters Ü, Ä and Ö are commonly spelled out as ”U with two dots”, ”A with two dots” and ”O with two dots”. The letter Å can be expressed as ”Åke” or ”A with an overring”.


Ending the call

Thank you for your time.
I’ll get in touch in a couple of days.
Talk to you soon.
Have a good day.

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