Sometimes you will have to call a company/organisation and not have a name of a person you want to speak to. This is more difficult for non-native speakers of English than calling somebody directly (on their phone or mobile/cell) or asking to speak to somebody on a phone call, because at the beginning of the conversation you have to explain what you want.
But if you are prepared for not only what you have to say, but also for what questions you will be asked by the person who you will speak to, it makes making these types of phone calls a lot easier to do.
In the below exercise on English telephone phrases, you will learn and remember phrases and vocabulary you can use when calling a company/organisation but you don't have a name of somebody you want to speak to. In addition, you will learn what people will ask you in these types of telephone conversations.
Although the below examples are business calls, you can use and hear the phrases in them when you make calls for non-business reasons (e.g. to contact your bank etc...) as well.
In each of the two following conversations, a person is calling a company. Although both are very similar, there are differences in what the caller asks for.
In the first, the caller wants to speak to somebody in a specific department. In the second, the caller only gives the reason why they are calling.
From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are and when you should use them in a telephone call. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.
Click to see more telephone English vocabulary exercises
Telephone Call 1:
Receptionist:'Good morning. Ward Computers. How can I help you?'
Caller:'Good morning. I'd like to speak to somebody in the sales department, please.'
Receptionist:'May I ask what it's regarding?'
Caller:'It's regarding an order which we recently made with yourselves.'
Receptionist:'Can I ask who's calling, please?'
Caller:'Of course. My name's Simon Ward and I'm calling from Hughes Systems.'
Receptionist:'If you'd just hold the line for a minute, I'll see if somebody is available.'
Two minutes later
Receptionist:'Thank you for holding the line. I'll put you through to somebody in the sales department.'
Telephone Call 2:
Receptionist:'Good afternoon. Gordon and Smith Supplies. How can I help you?'
Caller:'Good afternoon. I'd like to speak to somebody about an order, please.'
Receptionist:'Are you wanting to place an order?'
Caller:'No, I'm calling about an order which we recently made with yourselves.'
Receptionist:'Can I take your name, please?'
Caller:'My name's John Smith and I'm calling from Shelbourne School.'
Receptionist:'Would you mind holding the line while I see if anybody is available?
Below is a definition/description of each of the phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.
When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.
Now that you understand the vocabulary, you need to use it. So imagine you are making a phone call to somebody and say the phrases.