4 tips for talking on the phone in English

4 tips for talking on the phone in English

by Laura Jones

Updated November 10, 2022

Talking on the phone in English can be intimidating, no matter what your level of English is. This is because you can only rely on your listening skills, and you can’t see the other person’s facial expressions or gestures. Because of this, it’s especially important to speak and communicate clearly on the phone. Additionally, talking on the phone often requires more formal language than everyday conversation does, as we are usually exchanging important information. Let’s learn how to talk on the phone in English with these four easy tips.

  1. Prepare yourself. 
  2. Introduce yourself
  3. Use these key phrases
  4. Listen carefully

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1. Prepare yourself

Preparing before making a phone call can be extremely helpful for many people who are learning English. Write down why you’re making the phone call and what you want to get out of it. Perhaps you’re calling to ask a question or to make an appointment. We’re not telling you to write a script! You can’t predict what the other person will say. However, writing some bullet points will help you remember what you wanted to talk about.

2. Introduce yourself

Now we’re going to think about how to talk on the phone professionally. If you’re calling someone in a business context, introduce yourself with your name, the name of your company and the department if necessary. If you’ve spoken to the person before, remind them of that, especially if it’s a business call. This is something you can practice and prepare before the call to make sure you get off to a good start, which will help you feel more confident during the rest of the call. 

Hello, this is James Atkins from HelloNoodle. I work in the marketing department. 

Hi Mark, this is Sarah Coolidge from Express. We spoke last Wednesday. 

3. Use these key phrases

Starting the call

If you’re calling a reception area of a larger company, or if you’re using a general line, ask for the person or department you want to speak to immediately. 

  • Hello, my name is Tina, I work at Johns Consulting. Could I speak to Mark, please?
  • I would like to speak to someone in the customer service department. 

Answering a call

When you are the person answering a call, it’s a good idea to state your name when you pick up in a business context

  • Good morning, this is Emma. 
  • Hello, Peter speaking.
  • Good afternoon, marketing department.

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Saying why you’re calling

When you reach the right person, state the reason for your call straight away and request any information you need.

  • I’m calling to make a reservation for tonight. 
  • I’m calling concerning a product I bought last week. 
  • I would like to ask about a holiday I saw on your website. 
  • I want to discuss the article you wrote last week. Is this a good time to talk?
  • I’m calling to find out what time the manager will arrive tomorrow. 
  • The airline lost my luggage. Could you tell me when I might get it back?

Ending the call

It can be awkward to know how to end a call, so here are some phrases to help you do that. Firstly, here are phrases if you called someone: 

  • I appreciate you talking to me today.
  • Thank you for your time
  • I’m grateful for your help.

And here are some phrases if someone called you: 

  • I appreciate your call.
  • Thank you for calling

And you can always say, ‘Have a nice day!’ at the end of the call. 

4. Listen carefully

Practicing active listening is crucial during a phone call. There’s a huge temptation to start thinking about the next thing you need to say, but this is distracting and it means you’ll often miss information from the other person. The number one piece of advice is to not get distracted. Don’t scroll on your computer, don’t doodle, don’t think about lunch; just listen. 

Another way to practice active listening is to use verbal – like ‘um’ and ‘ah’. This helps the person talking know that you’re still listening. You can also ask questions or repeat things that the person says in order to check you’ve understood. 

  • Did you say that the office closes at 5 pm?
  • If I understood correctly, you would like to meet for lunch on Thursday, not Tuesday?
  • I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you repeat the last sentence?

Are you ready to start talking on the phone in English? 

A little planning goes a long way so make sure to note down a couple of phrases and the goal of your phone call before you start. Practice introducing yourself and some of the phrases to say why you’re calling and to ask for what you want. Remember to listen carefully throughout the conversation, and make sure to say goodbye politely. It’s as easy as that! 

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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