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Capítulo 3:

 Telephoning at work. Hablar por teléfono en inglés en el trabajo

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3.1. Transferring a call and being ‘on hold’

If you call to a business, generally you are greeted by a receptionist who then transfers your call to the right line.  The time that you are waiting when you are being transferred is commonly known as being on hold.

 Here are some phrases you might hear.

  • Please hold.
  • Is it ok if you just hold the line a moment?
  • Just bear with me, I’ll be right with you
  • Can you hang on a sec?
  • Would you like to hold for Mr Fischer or will you call back later?


Language Tip

When a caller has to wait on the phone, we often use the present continuous to describe our actions.

eg. I’m putting you through now or I’m just looking for his extension number.


Language Tip

We use quite a few phrasal verbs in basic telephone phrases in English. Here are the translations:

Hold on/hang on! = wait a moment. eg. Could you hang on and I’ll transfer you.

Put someone through = connect. eg. Can you put me through to Mr Jones please?

Get through to = succeed in contacting. e.g. I’ve been trying to get through to Mrs Franklin all morning.

Call someone back = return someone’s call. e.g. Could you get Mr Von Tromp to call me back when he returns?

Read something back =  Repeat information. e.g. I’ll just read that back to you.

Get back to someone = Contact someone later. e.g. I haven’t had time to get back to Mr Stevenson yet regarding the order.

Cut off = To be disconnected. e.g. I was talking to Daniel Donaldson, but we were cut off.

Switch off =  To disconnect the phone. e.g. Please switch off all phones, the plane is about to leave.

Hang up =  to put the phone down and end the call. e.g. I can’t hear you on this line. Please hang up and I’ll call you right back.

Speak up = To talk a little more loudly. e.g. I can’t hear you very well, can you please speak up?

Be tied up = (colloquial) To be busy. e.g. I’m afraid I’m a bit tied up at the moment, can I talk to you later?

Activity 1.

Use these verbs to complete the sentences in the present continuous

deal      run         walk      bring      look       ring        work      connect       talk        answer

1. Just a second! Mr. Morris is_______into the room now.

2. Bear with me, I’m_______for a pen.

3. He might be___________on the second floor today.

4. Hang on a moment, I’m__________you now.

5. My other phone is__________, can I just put you on hold for a moment?

6. She’s not________her phone at the moment, can you call back?

7. My battery is_______out, can you wait while I connect it to the power point?

8. Just a moment, I’m__________up the documents on the screen now.

9. Can you give me a minute? I was just_________with my manager.

10. I’m just_______with somebody, I won’t be a moment.

Activity 2.

Match these phrases with the equivalents.

1. I’m a bit tied up at the moment.                              a. I saw you called me.

2. Please hold.                                                              b. I’ll just transfer you now.

3. I’ll just read that back to you.                               c. I’m putting the phone down.

4. I’ll put you through now.                                             d. Can you speak louder?

5. Could you speak up a little?                                  e. Please wait a moment.

6. I’m trying to get through to James Molloy.               f. I’ll read that again.

7. Can I get back to you later?                                  g. I’m sorry, I’m a bit busy right now.

8. Hello, I think we were cut off.                                    h. Is James Molloy in yet?

9. I’m sorry I need to hang up now.                              i. I’ll call you this afternoon.

10. I’m calling you back with regard to your offer.      j. hello, the line went dead.

Answer here:

Answer here

3.2. Asking for repetition

Everyone has problems with listening on the phone.  Perhaps there is background noise, or the phone line is not clear.  Also, with certain types of information, for example order numbers, it is vital to get the information absolutely accurate.

Here are some phrases to help you to get the caller to repeat the information.

  • Could you please speak a bit more slowly
  • I’m sorry I didn’t catch that
  • Can you read that back to me?
  • Could you repeat that?
  • I’m sorry, you’ve lost me.
  • So was that 67482?
  • I think I have everything, but I’d be grateful if you could email me a copy of the invoice.
  • Would you mind repeating that?
  • So it’s Francis, F.R.A.N.C.I.S, ‘C’ as in Charlie?
  • This line is terrible, can you call me back?

Listen to the call and correct the information below.  [Audio track 8: Escucha el audio en el vídeo de arriba]

Georgina Teal is calling from Hunter Systems.

Georgina has good news for Janet.

Janet can’t hear Georgina because there is too much background noise.

The order number is 6748031bt.

3.3. Ending the call

It is important to end your call well, so that you maintain good business relations with other people.

Have a look at and listen to the difference between these messages. [Audio track 9: Escucha el audio en el vídeo de arriba]

  • Nice to hear from you, I’ll talk to you soon, bye!
  • Ok I’m done, bye.

Here are some more ways to end the call. These can be categorized into several types.

Give thanks

  • Thank you so much for your help
  • Thanks a lot
  • You’ve been a big help

Refer to a future contact

  • I hope to speak to you again soon
  • We’ll talk more next week
  • I look forward to hearing from you
  • We’ll expect you next week
  • Don’t forget to call me on Friday

Offer to help

  • Was there anything else I can help you with?
  • Is there anything further?
  • Was there something else?

Give reason for ending the call

  • I’m so sorry, but I must dash* to my next appointment
  • I’ll have to leave it at that for now; I must speak to my boss.
  • I’m sorry, but I’m expecting another call

Say goodbye

  • Ok have a good weekend
  • Give my love to Mary and the kids
  • Nice talking to you
  • See you later

New Expressions

Listen to the end of these calls.  What category would you place them in? [Audio track 10: Escucha el audio en el vídeo de arriba]






Activity 2.

Match an appropriate end to these conversations.


Answer here:

Answer here

Your turn

[Audiotrack 11: Escucha el audio en el vídeo de arriba]


3.4. Automated information and recorded messages

Sometimes when you are trying to call someone, you don’t reach a real person at all.  Instead there will be a set of pre-recorded instruction for you to follow.  These can be hard to understand, but luckily there is usually an option where you can repeat the message.

Language Tip

We often use the imperative tense in recorded messages.  This is where the verbs are in the third person singular. See these examples:

- Dial nine for an outside line.          

- Please turn off all mobiles during the flight.

- All our lines are busy at the moment. Please hold. 

- Please choose one of the following options.

- Speak after the tone.                   

- For more information, press one.

- We can’t connect you call at this time, please try again later.

- Insert a coin.

Activity 1.

Listen to the following messages and underline the correct word. [Audiotrack 12: Escucha el audio en el vídeo de arriba]

1. The number you have called is no longer in operation/service.

2. We apologize for the delay/wait.

3. Select/Choose one of the following options.

4. For more information, push/press one.

5. All our operators are busy at the moment, please wait/hold.

6. To hear/repeat the message, press four.

7. Dial nine/one for an outside line.

8. Speak/talk after the tone.

9. Sorry, we are unable/unwilling to take your call at the moment.

10. Please call/try again later.

Activity 2.

Complete the following messages with the sentences above, you might need more than one.

1. Thank you for callingHalwesRealty. _________________________ /__________________________.

     An operator will be with you shortly.

2. Thank you for calling Charlie’s Pizzeria. Press one to make an order. Press two to check the status of      an order. Press three to hear our daily specials. __________________________.

3. Hi you’ve reached Frank Madison, I’m either away from my desk or out of the office. Please ____________________ and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

4. The number you have dialed is not recognised. _____________________ / ____________________.

5. ___________________________ Please note, you will not be charged for this call.

6. This is Hound and Sawer Marketing association. ___________________. Your business is important to           us. ______________________. To place an advert press one. To make a complaint press two.      To inquire about our services press three. To speak to an operator press four.      Or____________________________.

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