In the first part of this online exercise on English telephone vocabulary, you learnt some essential vocabulary which is used when both talking on the telephone and talking about telephone calls.

In this second part, you are going to learn some more. In particular, you will learn the meaning of 9 commonly used phrasal verbs and expressions used when making or receiving phone calls. Knowing these phrasal verbs and expressions will help you both talk about phone calls better and speak better when talking on the phone.

If you haven't done the first part of this exercise on essential telephone English vocabulary, I would recommend that you do that first. Some of the vocabulary from that exercise is used in this one.

In addition, to practise and learn what phrases you can both say and hear on different types of phone calls in English, look at our other exercises on telephone English vocabulary.


Exercise:

In the following conversation, Claire is telling her friend Sally about a phone call she made to her bank.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Sally:'Hi Claire, you look stressed. Has anything happened?'

Claire:'I just had to make a call to my bank to change my home address on my bank account.'

Sally:'I hate calling banks. So, what happened?'

Claire:'Well, the first three times I rang them I couldn't get through to them. No one was answering my phone call there.'

Sally:'I suppose they were busy.'

Claire:'Anyway, on the fourth call somebody picked up the phone there. So, I started to tell a woman there that I wanted to change my address. But then the call started to break up. I couldn't hear everything that she was saying and could only hear parts of words. Then after a minute of this happening, the line went dead.'

Sally:'So, what did you do?'

Claire:'I had to call them back.'

Sally:'You called them again?'

Claire:'Yeah. The same woman picked up and told me that her line had gone dead as well.'

Sally:'So you were cut off?'

Claire:'Yeah. She told they had been having problems with their phones all morning.'

Sally:'So, she changed your address?'

Claire:'No! She didn't know how to change addresses on bank accounts. So she had to go and speak to her manager. She put me on hold while she went and spoke to him.'

Sally:'How long were you on hold for?'

Claire:'Only about 2 minutes. But I hate the music they play while you are waiting. When she started speaking to me again, she told me she couldn't speak to her manager because he was in a meeting with a customer. She offered to call me back when she had spoken to him, but I told her that I would hold on until she had spoken to him.'

Sally:'So, how long were you waiting?'

Claire:'I held on for a long time. But after 20 minutes of waiting, I was so angry that I ended the call.'

Sally:'You hung up?'

Claire:'Yeah. I was really frustrated with having to wait so much time. But I did call them back about an hour later. The same woman answered and apologised for me waiting so long. She told me that she couldn't change the address on my bank account, but her manager could. So she put me through to his extension and I started to talk to him. And he changed my address.'


Click to see more telephone English vocabulary and phrases exercises


Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/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.


1. To return or make again a telephone call to somebody, is
         

Call them back:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to call (somebody) back'. This phrasal verb basically means to call somebody again. You can use this to tell somebody that you will call them again in the future (e.g. 'I'll call you/her/him/them back this afternoon' or 'I'll call back this afternoon' ) or to ask somebody to call you in the future (e.g. 'Can you call me back later?).

A different way to say this is to replace 'call' with 'ring'. For example, 'I'll ring you back this afternoon'.

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Call them back:

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 you are waiting for somebody to start speaking to you again (and normally hear music) on a telephone call, you are
         

On hold:
(adjective) This expression means to be waiting on a telephone call while the person you are speaking to is doing something else. It is normal to be put 'on hold' when calling a company while the person you are speaking to has to do something (like ask somebody what to do, get some information for you which is not at their desk).

This expression is normally used with the verb 'to put' or 'to be' in front of it.

For example:

'I just need to speak to my manager about this. I'll put you on hold.'

Normally when you are 'on hold', music is played on the phone call.

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On hold:

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. When a telephone calls suddenly ends because of a problem with the line/connection, you are
         

Cut off:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to cut off'.This means when a telephone call between two people suddenly ends. Normally, it's because there is a problem with the line or the phones. It's not the same as 'hang up'. This is when one of the two people decides to end the telephone in the middle of the conversation because they are angry.

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Cut off:

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 somebody transfers your call to another phone/extension, is
         

Put me through:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to put (somebody) through'. This phrasal verb basically means to transfer/pass a call from one phone to another one. This is commonly done in offices and companies, when a person who is calling wants or needs to speak to somebody else there.

For example:

'Sorry I can't help you. You need to speak to somebody in the accounts department. I'll put you through to that department and somebody there will be able to help you.'

You can also use 'transfer you through to' with the same meaning.

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Put me through:

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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5. When somebody ends a phone call (probably because they are angry) when the other person is still speaking or listening, is
         

Hung up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to hang up'. This is when a person ends a telephone call when the other person is still speaking or listening. Normally people 'hang up' when they are angry with the other person or with something they have said. It's very rude to 'hang up' on somebody, both people should always say goodbye before finishing a phone call.

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Hung up:

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. When you tell somebody that you will wait on the telephone for either somebody to become available or until they finish doing something, is
         

Hold on:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to hold on'. This phrasal verb is used to tell a person that you will wait on the phone until somebody is available to speak to you.

When you call somebody in a company, the person you want or need to talk to may not be available to talk to you straight away (they may be speaking to somebody or on another phone call). In these situations, the person you are speaking to will tell you this and offer to get them to call you back or ask you call back later. If you want to wait until they are available, you would tell them 'no, I'll hold on'.

For example:

'Simon is on another call. Would you like him to call you back?'

'No, I'll hold on.'

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Hold on:

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. A different way to say 'answer' a call on a landline phone, is
         

Picked up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to pick up'.This is a different way to say 'answer' a phone call. This phrasal verb is only used to answer a phone call on a 'landline phone' (a traditional type of phone). It is never used with this meaning for 'mobile/cell phones' (where you always use 'answer' instead).

With a 'mobile/cell phone', if you ask somebody to 'pick it up', it means to lift/raise the phone with their hand from something. For example, 'I want to clean the table, can you pick up your mobile so I can do it.'

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Picked up:

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 there is a problem on a phone call where you can't hear everything the other person is saying, is
         

Break up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to break up'.This phrasal verb has many different meaning, but in this context it means that you can't hear everything that a person you are talking to is saying. Normally, when a person is 'breaking up' you can hear some things they say, but not others. Also, you can often only hear only parts of words they are saying.

This happens when there is a problem on the line or there is little reception on a mobile/cell phone.

For example:

'Sorry, you're breaking up. I can't hear everything that you are saying.'

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Break up:

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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9. When you are unable to contact somebody by phone, you say you
         

Couldn't get through:
(phrasal verb) In this context, this phrasal verb means you are not able to contact somebody by phone. You would use it when when you have tried to call a person, but they didn't answer.

This phrase is normally followed by 'to' and then 'you' or 'him' or 'her'.

For example:

'Did you speak to John?'

'No, I couldn't get through to him. He wasn't answering his phone.'

It is not normally used in the positive (i.e. when you did contact/speak to somebody). In this situation, you just use 'I spoke to him/her' instead.

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Couldn't get through:

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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Practice

Now that you understand this telephone vocabulary, practise it by making sentences in English with the new words/phrases.