This is the second part of two online exercises on learning what to say on phone calls in English when the person you call isn't there or can't talk with you. In addition to learning more English vocabulary and phrases used when somebody can't talk to you when you call, in this part you will learn what to say when you want to leave a message for the person and how to say it.

It doesn't matter if you do this or the first part of this exercise first. But I would recommend that you do both, because they will prepare you for everything you could be asked if this happens to you and what you have to say.

Like with the first part of this exercise, it is focused 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:


Exercise:

In each of the two following telephone conversations, a receptionist tells a caller that the person/people who they are calling for can't speak to them. In the first dialogue, the person they are calling for can't speak to them, but the receptionist doesn't say why. In the second, all the people in the department the caller wants to speak to are busy.

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.

Telephone Call 1:

Receptionist:'I'm afraid she is currently unavailable.'

Caller:'Ok. Could I leave a message?'

Receptionist:'Of course. Let me get a pen.'

10 seconds later

Receptionist:'Go ahead, please.'

Caller:'Can you tell her that Jeff Phelps called.'

Receptionist:'Could you spell that, please.'

Caller:'My name?'

Receptionist:'If you could, please.'

Caller:'My first name is J E double F. And my surname is P H E L P S.'

Receptionist:'Perfect.'

Caller:'Could you ask her to call me back about Friday's meeting.'

Receptionist:'Call you back about Friday's meeting. OK. Does she have your number?'

Caller:'I think so. But I'll give it to you just in case. It's 0 7 4 5 3, 9 double 6 7 4 1.'

Receptionist:'So that's 0 7 4 5 3, 9 double 6 7 4 1.'

Caller:'That's right.'

Receptionist:'I'll pass that on to her. Thank you for your call.'

Caller:'Thank you. Bye.'

Receptionist:'Bye.'

Telephone Call 2:

Receptionist:'I'm afraid they are all currently busy at the moment. Would you like to wait on the line until one of them is available?'

Caller:'Yes, I would.'

Receptionist:'Ok, putting you on hold.'

3 minutes later

Receptionist:'I'm afraid they are all still on other calls. Would you like me to ask one of them to call you back?'

Caller:'Do you know how long it will be until somebody is available?'

Receptionist:'It's difficult to say. It could be 5 minutes or more. Would you like me to get one of them to call you back later.'

Caller:'Not really, I've got a few meetings today. Is there anybody else who I could speak to about placing an advertisement?'

Receptionist:'I'm afraid not. It's only the sales department who deal with advertisements. I can give you the department's phone number, so you can call them directly.'

Caller:'Ok. If you could do that, please.'


Click to see more telephone English vocabulary exercises



Quiz:

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.


1. A way to ask if there is another person available that you can speak to about the reason why you are calling, is
         

Is there anybody else who I could speak to about :
(phrase) If the person or people (i.e. in a department/team) you are calling for are not available or able to take your call, you can always ask if there is somebody else you can speak to. To do this, you use the phrase 'Is there anybody else who I could speak to about'. You would then follow it by saying what it is that you are calling about (e.g. change your account details, make a complaint, place an order etc...).

For example:

'Is there anybody else who I could speak to about changing my account details?'

The person you are speaking to may say there is or there isn't.

Close

Is there anybody else who I could speak to about:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. When the person can't connect you to anybody who can help you, they will say
         

I'm afraid they are all currently busy at the moment:
(phrase) The person who you are speaking to will say this phrase when there is nobody in the department or team that you want to speak to, who can take your call. This could be because they are all on other phone calls and/or they are busy doing other things.

Another phrase which you could here which basically has the same meaning is:

'I'm afraid they are all currently on other calls at the moment'.

After they say this, the person will normally ask you if you want to wait. If after waiting for 2 to 5 minutes nobody is still available to take your call, they will ask you if you want to call back later, be called back by somebody in the department/team or continue waiting.

Close

I'm afraid they are all currently busy at the moment:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. What the person you are speaking to can say when they start to repeat the information you want included in the message you are leaving, is
         

So that's:
(phrase) When you leave a message with somebody, they will often repeat to you what you have said to make sure that they have got it right. When they do this, they may start by using the phrase "so that's" before repeating the information you have given them.

This phrase is most often used when repeating the phone number you are leaving and repeating the spelling of your name if you have had to spell it out to them because it is unusual. For example:

'So that's 78567564?'

'So that's Simon G R E G G?'

After they have said this, you have to confirm if what they have said is correct by saying "that's right". If it isn't right, you would correct them. And you would start to do this by saying "no, it's...".

Close

So that's:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. When you ask how much more time you'll have to wait until you can speak to someone, you say
         

Do you know how long it will be until somebody is available:
(phrase) It is common when you call a company or organisation that you will have to wait until someone is available to take your call. If they are busy, you could be waiting for a long time. If this happens, the person who transferred you into the telephone queue, will normally speak to you again to apologise for the wait.

To ask them how much more time you will have to wait, you can use this phrase.

This phrase is for when you want to speak to someone but don't know who it will be (someone in a department/team). But you can use the same phrase with a small change if you are calling for a specific person who is there, but is busy when you call. Simply change 'somebody' for 'he' or 'she'.

For example:

'Do you know how long it will be until she is available?'

Close

Do you know how long it will be until somebody is available:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5. When the person you are speaking to wants to make sure they have written down your name correctly, they will ask you
         

Could you spell that, please:
(phrase) When you leave a message for someone, if your name is unusual in the country you are calling, you will probably be asked to spell it for the person who is taking it. If they want you to spell it, they will use this phrase after you have told them it. For example:

'Tell her that Juan Montes has called.'

'Could you spell that, please?'

After that you would say what the letters of your names are. Before you spell them out, you should say which is your first name and which is your surname. For example:

'My first name is J U A N and my surname is M O N T E S.'

Close

Could you spell that, please:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. A polite way to ask the person you are speaking to, to pass a message to the person you want to speak to, is
         

Could I leave a message:
(phrase) Normally, you will be asked by the person you are speaking to if you want to leave a message for the person who isn't there or is too busy to talk with you (e.g. 'would you like to leave message?'). But if you aren't, you can always ask them to take a message and then pass it on to the person. To do this, you would say 'could I leave a message?'.

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Could I leave a message:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. When leaving a message for somebody, the person you are speaking to will ask if they have your phone number by saying
         

Does she have your number:
(phrase) This phrase is used by the person you are speaking to, to confirm if it is necessary or not to take your phone number and include it in the message. After they say this, you can say 'yes, she does.' or 'no, she doesn't. It's...'.

If you think they do, but still want it included in the message they are given, you can say the following:

'I think so. But I'll give it to you just in case. It's...'

Close

Does she have your number:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. When the person you want to speak to is in the place you are calling, but is currently busy, you will be told
         

I'm afraid she is currently unavailable:
(phrase) This is a common phrase that is used when the person you want to talk to can't take your call. When this is used, it means that the person is in the place you are calling, but is doing something which means they can't talk to you (e.g. they are in a meeting etc...) or doesn't want to talk to you (e.g. they are avoiding you or are busy doing something else).

If the reason is a good one (e.g. they are in a meeting), they may say why they can't talk to you at that moment. But often they will say they won't and just say they are unavailable.

Another phrase which has a similar meaning and you also hear used is 'I'm afraid she's currently away from her desk'.

Close

I'm afraid she is currently unavailable:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

9. When the person you are speaking to repeats information you want included in a message, you say this to confirm that they have it correct
         

That's right:
(phrase) When you leave a message with somebody, they will often repeat to you what you have said to make sure that they have got it right. When they do this, you need to confirm what they have is right or wrong.

To confirm that it is correct, you would say the phrase 'that's right' or 'that's correct'.

For example:

'So that's 78567564?'

'That's right.'

If it isn't right, you would correct them. And you would start to do this by saying, "no, it's..." and stress (say louder and for longer) the part which they have incorrect.

For example:

'So that's 78568564?'

'No, it's 78567564.'

Close

That's right:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10. When leaving a message for somebody, the first thing you would say is
         

Can you tell her that Jeff Phelps called:
(phrase) When giving somebody a message on the phone that they will pass on to another person, you have to say it in a specific way and in a specific order.

The first thing you would say is your name. To do this you would say this phrase ('can you tell her that Jeff Phelps called'). After this you would say what the message is. When telling the person the details of the message, you start by saying 'can you tell her' or 'can you ask her to' followed by the details of message (e.g. 'the meeting in Zurich has been cancelled').

After this, you can leave your phone number with the person you are talking to, so they can include it in the message. You can do this by saying, 'my phone number is...' or 'they can contact me on...'. You can also say what time(s) you can be contacted at or by. For example, 'I'll be in the office until 5pm'.

Close

Can you tell her that Jeff Phelps called:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close






Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.