Telephoning in English
Useful vocabulary for making telephone calls in English.
If you need to spell your name, or take the name of your caller, the biggest problem is often saying vowel sounds:
'a' is pronounced as in 'may'
'e' is pronounced as in 'email' or 'he'
'i' is pronounced as in 'I' or 'eye'
'o' is pronounced as in 'no'
'u' is pronounced as 'you'
'g' is pronounced like the 'j' in 'jeans'
'j' is pronounced as in 'DJ' or 'Jane'
'w' is pronounced 'double you'
'x' is pronounced 'ex'
'y' is pronounced 'why'
'z' is pronounced 'zed' (rhymes with 'bed' in British English), or 'zee' (rhymes with 'sea' in American English).
Tip: Keep a note of how you say these letters by your telephone.
Here's a phone number: 0171 222 3344
And here's how to say it:
"Oh-one-seven-one, triple two, double three, double four."
"Zero-one-seven-one, triple two, double three, double four."
When you say a seven digit number, separate the number into two blocks of three and four, pausing after each block.
Each digit is spoken separately, unless it's a double or triple. If the second part of the number was '5555', you'll probably find it easier to say 'double five – double five'.
Saying email addresses
@ is pronounced 'at'. For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org is "caimin, at, clara, dot, net".
/ is "forward slash".
- is called a "hyphen" or a "dash".
_ is an "underscore".
Example telephone dialogues
Here are examples of typical telephoning language:
You: "Can I speak to (Mr Smith), please?" or "Is (Mr Smith) there, please?"
Receptionist: "May I ask who's calling?" or "Could I have your name, please?"
You: "Yes, this is Tom McIvor speaking."
Many British people don't identify themselves when they make or receive a phone call. Even at home, they normally pick up the phone and say "Hello". But they won't be offended if you ask for their name.
Leaving or taking a message
"I'm afraid Mr Smith is…
… out of the office today."
… off sick today."
… in a meeting."
… on holiday."
or "I'm afraid his line is engaged."
"…Would you like to leave a message?"
You: "Could you ask him to call me back?" or "Could you ask him to return my call?"
Receptionist: "Does he have your number?" or "What's your number, please?"
The receptionist uses "I'm afraid" or "I'm sorry" if he or she can't connect you.
If the receptionist doesn't offer to take a message, you can ask to leave one.
You: "Could I leave a message, please?"
Receptionist: "Yes, certainly." or "Yes, of course."
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