When you call a company or organisation and ask to speak to somebody (either when you have a name of somebody you want to speak to or you don't have one), often the person or somebody won't be able to talk to you when you call.
If this happens, it can be very confusing if your first language isn't English. Not only can there be a number of different reasons why the person or somebody can't speak to you (the person is not there, they are speaking to somebody else on the phone etc...), but there are also a number of different things that you can do or be asked by the person you are speaking to about what you want to do (e.g. call them back later, leave a message for them etc...).
But if you are prepared for these situations before you call, you'll know both what you could be asked and (more importantly) what to say. Making you more confident before you make any phone call in English.
To help you know what to say when the person you call isn't there or can't speak to you, I have created two online exercises on English telephone phrases for you. In these you will learn different phrases and vocabulary that are used for this situation. In addition, you will learn and remember what you can say when this happens.
This exercise is the first of two exercises on what to say if the person you call isn't there. In the second part of this exercise, you will learn what to say when you want to leave a message.
This exercise focuses on helping you know what to expect and say in these situations, so the beginning of each telephone conversation is not included. To learn what you need to say in English to start a telephone conversation, do the following exercises:
In each of the two following telephone conversations, a receptionist tells a caller that the person who they are calling for can't speak to them. In the first conversation, the person they are calling for is not there. In the second, the person is speaking to somebody else on a another call.
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:'I'm afraid he is out of the office at the moment.'
Caller:'Ok. Do you know when he'll be back?'
Receptionist:'I think he'll be back later this afternoon. '
Caller:'Could I take his mobile number?'
Receptionist:'I'm afraid I can't give you that, sir. Would you like to leave a message and I will pass it onto him?'
Caller:'No, it's ok. I'll call back later.'
Receptionist:'Ok. Sorry I couldn't have been of more help.'
Caller:'That's ok. Bye.'
Telephone Call 2:
Receptionist:'I'm afraid his line is busy at the moment. Would you like to wait on the line until he is available?'
Caller:'Yes, I'll wait.'
Receptionist:'Putting you on hold.'
Five minutes later
Receptionist:'I'm afraid he's still on another call. Would you like me to ask him to call you back?'
Caller:'Not really. It's urgent, I need to speak about this now. Is William Smith available?'
Receptionist:'I'll check to see if he is available. '
40 seconds later
Receptionist:'He is available to talk with you. I'll put you through to him now.'
Below is a definition/description of each of the phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one 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 phrase (how and when it is used). 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 have done this exercise, I recommend that you do the second part of this exercise. In this second part, you'll learn more vocabulary that you will hear and could use and what to say when you want to leave a message for somebody in English.
Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.