Making Phone Calls in English

(9 Incredibly Useful Tips)

Rebecca Schlesinger, ESL teacher, London

13 August 2019

Making phone calls in English can seem quite scary for several reasons. On a phone call you don’t have the aid of gestures to communicate, or facial expressions to help convey emotion and tone. In addition to this, it can be harder to understand people over the phone.

Imagine you’re on an important phone call with a colleague or client and they are speaking really fast, you are struggling to understand everything they are saying. How can you handle this situation professionally?

Don’t stress, this article will teach you some incredibly useful tips for making phone calls in English, that will help save you in situations like this so you can stay calm and in control on a call.


1. Start the call with a confident greeting

First of all, you should make sure you start the call with a confident greeting. This is because starting the conversation with the proper English expressions will increase your confidence for the rest of the call.

If you are receiving the call

E.g. Hello/ Good morning/ afternoon. This is Sara  from _______. How can I help?

If you are the person the caller wants to speak to, it’s common to start with “speaking”

E.g. “Hi can I speak to Vicky?”

– “Yes, speaking”

If you are making the call

“Hi there.” (informal)

“Hello, this is _____ calling from _________.”

“Hey, how’ve you been?” or “Nice to hear from you.” 


2. Then, state why you are calling

After you’ve got the greetings out the way, you should make it clear why you are calling. In order to help you do this we’ve given you some phrases start the conversation and to explain why you are calling.

  • “Hello Mr. Khan, I’m calling with regards to…”
  • “Hi Lucy, I’m calling about…”
  • “Hi there, I’m just calling to see if…”
  • “I was wondering if it would be possible to…”




3. Practice your dates and times beforehand

Often phone calls in a business context involve arranging meetings and talking about specific dates, so if you want your English to sound confident it is essential that you learn how to say your dates properly.



20th March 2018 = “The twentieth of March, twenty eighteen”


2019 = “Two thousand and nineteen” or we can simply say “twenty nineteen”.




4. Revise your prepositions of time

In addition to learning how to say your dates and times you should also learn the prepositions that go with these specific days, months, years and times. Therefore it’s definitely a good idea to brush up on your prepositions of time, because small differences like this have the power to dramatically improve the sound of your English.

We use ‘on’ for days & dates

  • The delivery will arrive on Tuesday.”
  • “The meeting in on the 28th June.”

Use ‘in’ for longer periods of time, such as months, years and seasons. 

  • “Construction work will begin in June.”
  • “Sales usually fall in the Summer.”
  • “We started the project in 2015.” 

Use ‘at’ for specific points in time

“Just to let you know that the clients will arrive at lunchtime.”

“Just a reminder that the meeting is at 2.30pm.”




5. Show you are listening with these responses

While it’s important to know how to say what you need to, it’s equally as important to show you understand what the caller is saying and that you are listening.  This is especially true when making phone calls in English because you don’t have the help of body language to show that you are listening.

  • Mm
  • Uh huh
  • I see
  • Right 
  • Yeah 
  • Exactly

6. Try alternative phrases to ask them to repeat

Instead of sticking to one expression to ask someone to repeat – “could you repeat that?” – try mixing things up with different expressions. By doing this, your English will sound much more advanced.

  • “Sorry, I missed that?”
  • “I didn’t catch that last bit?”
  • “Sorry, what was that?” 



7. Clarify information


When making a phone call in English, if you don’t fully understand something there is a danger of asking to repeat too much. In order to avoid this, try using clarifying phrases instead. Clarifying phrases are ways to summarise what you understand, so that you can check information. Try starting with these expressions and then rephrasing the information that you have understood. 

  • “So you’re saying…” 
  • “So let me just clarify that…”
  • “Can I just confirm I’ve got that right?”
  • “So what you’re saying is…”


8. Record yourself on a call

If you can get over the embarrassment of hearing the sound of your own voice, it’s a great idea to record yourself on a call. This way you can self-correct by listening to your mistakes and pronunciation. 


9. Learn useful phrases for dealing with connection issues 

If you are losing connection on a phone call in English and you can’t hear the other person clearly try using these expressions to politely and professionally handle the situation.

“Sorry you’re breaking up.”

= The connection is bad so you can’t hear some words that are said.

“Sorry you got cut off there.” 

= When the call ends due to bad connection and you have to call them back.



So before your next English phone call, if prepare with these top tips, you should be on your way to feeling confident while speaking over the phone in English!


Want to learn native-level expressions and vocabulary to use in your job?