Many students begin studying English for work purposes. They might be interviewing for international companies, moving to an English-speaking country, or may have English-speaking colleagues. An important part of learning business English is the vocabulary and phrases used for making a business English phone call.
Making or receiving calls at work for the first time, even in your native language, can be scary. But telephoning in English, a language that isn’t your first language, is even more challenging!
You can’t see the person when you are on the phone so you have to focus and listen much more carefully to make sure you hear and understand what they are saying. It’s way more difficult to understand someone when you can’t see their mouth moving, their body language, or their facial expressions.
So, it’s important to feel prepared and have some useful phrases ready for business phone calls in English. Let’s go over some different situations you might come across at work over the phone and the vocabulary you could use.
When you make a phone call at work for the first time and someone answers, you might panic. Try not to! Take a deep breath, and focus on the basics. The first thing you must remember to do is introduce yourself. The person answering needs to know who’s calling, right?
If you are the person making the call, the best thing to say is:
“Hello / good morning / good afternoon. This is [your name] calling from [company and/or department].”
If you are answering the call, it is not always necessary to give as much information. You could simply say:
“Hello, [your name] speaking. How may I help you?”
Or, you could say:
“Hello, [company and/or department] speaking.”
This second option is less personal and might be better if you are working for a large or well-known business.
If you need to speak with a specific person, you might want to ask for the extension number. This is an internal number at the company. Or, you may prefer to ask if the person is available.
You could say:
“Could I speak to [person’s name]?”
“May I speak to [person’s name] please?”
“Is [person’s name] available?”
“I would like to speak to [person’s name] please.”
“Would it be possible to speak to [person’s name] please?”
“Could you put me through to [person’s name]?”
“I was wondering if I could speak with [person’s name]?”
“Is [person’s name] in?”
The last one is quite informal. It is best to only use it in less formal situations or perhaps when you are contacting a company or a person that you know well.
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If you are answering the phone and someone asks to speak to someone specific at your company, you might have to connect them to the other person.
You might say:
“One moment, please, I’ll put you through.”
“Can you hold the line? I’ll put you through.”
In this case, “to put [someone] through” means to connect them with the person they would like to speak to.
Asking someone to “hold, please” or “hold the line” is a polite way of asking them to wait. Professional phone etiquette is important for maintaining your company’s image, so be sure to use polite phrases like these and always say please and thank you!
If the person they are asking for isn’t available, you will probably need to take a message.
Here are some useful phrases you could use:
“I’m afraid [person’s name] is not available at the moment. Can I take a message?”
“[person’s name] is out at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?”
“[person’s name] isn’t available to take your call right now. Can you tell me your name and number and I will ask them to call you back?”
Sometimes, there might not be anyone available to answer the phone and you will be given the option to leave a voicemail message. If you are leaving a message for someone, it is important to include information such as your name, where you are calling from (i.e. which company you work for), the reason for your call, and your contact number.
Here are some phrases you might want to use if you are leaving a message for someone:
“Hello, this is [your name] from [company name].”
“I’m calling to find out… / to let you know that… / to see if…”
“Could you call me back when you get a chance / at your earliest convenience?”
“My number is / you can reach me at [your contact number].”
It is important to use the right vocabulary when you are making requests in English. If you use vocabulary which is too direct, it can sound rude. It’s important not to come across as rude in formal situations or with strangers, so learning how to make requests in a polite way is essential in a business setting.
💡 MosaTip: One way to make sure you request something in a polite way is to use words such as “would”, “could” and “may” at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “call me back, please” sounds very direct and slightly rude. “Could you call me back, please?” sounds a bit softer and politer.
Here are some examples of requests you might need to make during a business English phone call, using proper professional phone etiquette:
“Could I speak to [person’s name], please?”
“Could you let them know that…?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand. Could you repeat that, please?”
“Could you speak more slowly please?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name. Could you repeat it for me?”
“May I have your email address?”
Here are some ways to ask to meet someone in person or arrange an appointment during a phone call:
“Could we schedule a time to meet next week?”
“Would it be possible to continue this discussion in person?”
“Can we fix a meeting?”
“Shall we arrange an appointment?”
“Would it be useful to meet up soon?”
“Can we meet to go over this together?”
“Are you available for a face-to-face meeting?”
When arranging a date and time to meet, you could use the following phrases:
“Does Wednesday work for you?”
“How does Wednesday sound?”
“What time suits your schedule best?”
“How about Wednesday?”
“Would Wednesday be suitable?”
“Shall we say Wednesday?”
If you agree with the suggested day and time of the meeting, you might say:
“Sounds great. See you then.”
“Done. Looking forward to it.”
“That works for me. See you on Wednesday.”
If you are unable to meet at the time suggested, you could say:
“I’m afraid that day / time doesn’t work for me.”
“I won’t be able to make it.”
“I’m pretty tied up next week. Can we reschedule for the following week?”
“I’m afraid Wednesday won’t be possible. Can we postpone it till Thursday?”
“I’m completely snowed under until next week. Can we leave it open? I’ll get in touch when I’m less busy.”
(“Tied up” and “snowed under” are common English idioms to say you are very busy.)
If you need to cancel a meeting or an appointment, try the following:
“I can’t make Wednesday anymore. Something has come up. How about Thursday?”
“I can’t make Wednesday. Can we put it off till Thursday?”
“I’m afraid I can’t make Wednesday anymore. Would we be able to rearrange the meeting?”
(To “put off” is a phrasal verb. It means to delay or postpone something.)
Well done! You made it through your first business English phone call. Now, how do you end a phone conversation professionally? It’s important to end the phone call in a polite, friendly, and professional way. You might want to thank the person on the phone for their help or their time. You could say:
“Thank you for your assistance. Have a nice day.”
“It’s been good talking to you. Goodbye.”
If you were the person answering the phone, you might say:
“Thank you for calling. Have a great day.”
“Thanks for phoning. We’ll be back in touch soon.”
It can be quite stressful making or taking phone calls at work for the first time. These new phrases will help a lot but how can you remember them? Here are some tips about learning these new business English telephone phrases.
Many learners make the mistake of trying to learn too many new words and phrases at once, causing them to feel overwhelmed and making it impossible to actually retain any new vocabulary. Try to learn 3-5 new phrases every day and use them in your phone calls. The more you use a new word or phrase, the more likely you are to remember them as they will become part of your everyday vocabulary.
The Mosalingua Business English app teaches you vocabulary related to business phone calls in English and other useful phrases you might need to use in the workplace. You only need to practice for 10 minutes every day and it will help you to memorize some of these new key phrases related to business phone calls.
A great way to prepare yourself for a real business English phone call is by practicing through role play. If you have someone to practice with that’s great. However, if you don’t, you can still practice by yourself by writing down imaginary phone calls and trying to use the new vocabulary. The more practice you have, the more confident you will feel when it comes to the real thing!
Since you won’t be face-to-face with the person you are talking to, you could have some business English telephone phrases written down, or even some flashcards next to the phone. If you panic during the call, you can easily refer to these phrases. This will help you feel more relaxed and over time you won’t need to look at them as you will start to remember the vocabulary.
We all make mistakes and, as I am sure you’ve heard before, making mistakes is an important part of language learning! When you make mistakes, you learn from them and, in turn, progress more with the language.
If the person you are speaking to is impatient (hopefully they won’t be), try not to let that bother you. Making mistakes is normal and the more you accept this, the more confident you will feel!
Knowing your level, your strengths, and your weaknesses can also help you feel more sure of yourself:
If you are learning English for work purposes, it is likely that you will need to make business phone calls at some point.
There are many more phrases you can use during a business English phone call but this list should hopefully be a good starting point for you. Remember not to panic or worry if you forget these phrases or you make a mistake. It’s all part of the learning process. Good luck!
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about English for your career, we suggest:
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