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Let’s listen to an informal telephone conversation, after Ryan gets home from work.

Linda: Hello?

Ryan: Hi Linda, it’s Ryan. How’s it going?

Linda: Pretty good, thanks. How about you?

Ryan: I’m fine. Sure glad it’s Friday. Hey, is Peter there?

Linda: Yeah, hold on, I’ll get him. Peter! Ryan’s on the phone.

Peter: Hey Ryan, what’s up?

Ryan: Not much. Are you up for going fishing this weekend?

Peter: What? There’s a lot of background noise – I can barely hear you.

Ryan: Sorry about that – I’m at the train station. I was wondering if you wanted to go fishing this weekend. I’m heading up to Mountain Lake with some friends early tomorrow morning.

Peter: Uh, hang on a sec, let me just check with my wife to make sure we have no other plans.

Ryan: Sure.

Peter: Okay, she’s given me the green light!

Ryan: Sweet! We’ll pick you up at 6 tomorrow morning, is that OK?

Peter: Yup. Do you need directions to my place?

Ryan: Uh, you still living on Willow Street, near the community center?

Peter: Yeah, that’s right. The yellow house, number 30.

Ryan: Gotcha. I know how to get there.

Peter: All right – see you tomorrow, then.

Ryan: Take care.

Peter: Bye.

Telephone English Phrases – Informal Conversation

Let’s learn some of the different phrases used in an informal telephone conversation. In informal phone calls, most people answer the phone by saying “Hello?” and the introduction is also different:

  • Formal: “Hello, this is _______.”
  • Informal: “Hi / Hey ________, it’s _________.”

We see two different greetings in this conversation: “How’s it going?” and “What’s up?” These greetings require different answers. You can answer “How’s it going?” (or the similar question “How are you doing?”) with:

  • “Great!”
  • “Pretty good, thanks.”
  • “Not so good.”

And the typical answers to “What’s up?” are:

  • “Not much.”
  • “Nothing much.”

The phrase “How about you?” is used to ask the same question to the other person. Notice that it is spoken like this: “Howbout you?”

In the formal conversation, Ryan used the phrase “May I speak with…” – but in an informal conversation, you can use these phrases:

  • “Is Peter there?”
  • “Is Peter around?”
  • “Can I talk to Peter?”

If the person is not available, some informal responses are:

  • “Sorry – he’s not home right now.”
  • “He’s not here.”
  • “He’s still at work.”
  • “He’s at the gym.”

This conversation also contains some expressions for asking someone to wait:

  • “Hold on.”
  • “Hang on a sec.”
  • “Just a minute” / “Just a sec”

The formal equivalent of these phrases would be “One moment please” or “Please hold.”

At one point, Peter can’t hear or understand Ryan. Here are some phrases to use if you’re having difficulty hearing the other person on the phone.

  • “There’s a lot of background noise – I can barely hear you.”
  • “You’re breaking up. Could you call me back?”
    (breaking up = you can only hear parts of what the other person is saying)
  • “We have a bad connection.”
  • “Sorry – I didn’t catch what you just said.”
  • “Could you speak a little louder?”
    (say this if the person is speaking too quietly)
  • “Could you speak a little more slowly?”
    (say this if the person is speaking too fast)
  • “What did you say?” (informal)
  • “Could you repeat that?” / “Could you say that again?” (more formal)

If the bad connection causes the call to fail, you can call the other person back and say this:

  • “Hi, it’s Ryan again. Apparently we got cut off.”

“Cut off” is a phrasal verb that means the call failed or disconnected.

Towards the end of the conversation, Ryan uses the phrase “Gotcha” – this is a very informal phrase that means “I understand.” Another option is “Got it.” or “Right.”

Now, take the quiz to test your memory of the telephone phrases from this lesson.

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