Is Joe there, please?: phrases to use on the phone

by Liz Walter​
Sometimes really simple things can be difficult to do in other languages, because you need to know the exact words and phrases that people use. Making phone calls can be like that. How do you say who you are? How do you check who you are talking to? How do you ask someone to take a message for you?

Firstly, what should you say when you answer the phone? The most common thing is simply to say hello. However, in a more formal situation, you may want to give your name:

Hello, Max Roberts speaking.

If you are answering the phone in a company, it is common to say the company name or the name of the department you work in:

Hello, Cambridge Building Supplies. Max speaking.

            Hello, international sales.

If you are the person making the call, the first thing you usually need to do is say who you are:

Hi, it’s Anna (here).

Hello, this is Anna Smith.

Hello, my name’s Anna Smith. (if the person you are calling does not know you)

Sometimes you need to check that you are speaking to the right person. You can say:

Is that Adam?

To ask for someone’s name, for example if you have called a company or a place where several people could answer, you can say:

Who am I speaking to?

If the person who answers the phone is not the person you want to speak to, you can say:

Is Maria there, please?

Can I speak to Maria, please?

To tell someone that you are going to connect them to someone else, you can say:

I’ll put you through to him/her.

            I’ll transfer your call.

If the person you want to speak to isn’t there, there are several things you could say:

OK, I’ll call back later.

            Can you tell him/her that Anna Smith called, please?

            Could you give him/her a message for me, please?

            Could I leave a message for him/her, please?

If you take a call from someone who needs to speak to someone else, you can say:

I’m sorry, he’s not here at the moment.

            Is there anything I can help you with?

            Would you like to leave a message?

            Can I take a message?

            I’ll tell her you called.

            I’ll ask him to call you later.

            If you call back in half an hour, she should be free.

Finally, at the end of a call, we usually simply say: Goodbye or, more often, Bye.

17 thoughts on “Is Joe there, please?: phrases to use on the phone

    1. Such a blunt question can sound a bit rude. Better to use the longer, more gracious form suggested above. “Who am I speaking to?” Even better, introduce yourself (“This is Jim Brown.”) before asking.

  1. Liz Walter

    Hi Bhargavi – Goodbye is a little bit more formal than Bye, but they are the same really. Bye is fine, even for work calls.

  2. Magda

    I’ll put you through to him/her.

    Can I put it like this even when all I’m doing is passing the receiver to the person beside me?

  3. Liz Walter

    Hi Magda – no, ‘put someone through’ is only for when you transfer the call. If someone is there, we usually say ‘I’ll pass you over to him.’ or just ‘He’s here, if you’d like to speak to him.’

  4. This has been very useful for me, thanks. As mentioned, sometimes is some difficult to express our ideas when speaking by phone, specially if one is not a native english speaker.

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