ENGLISCH/835: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (158) Answering the phone (SB)


158. How do I answer the phone

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I'm going to Brighton next week to be an au pair. I'm staying with a British family there, looking after their kids and the house, while Mr. and Mrs. Jones are at work. They are both photographers and run a big studio. Especially Mrs Jones, who rang me up some time ago, seems to be very nice and very well organized. And I'm looking forward to seeing them. There is only one thing that troubles me and that is "talking on the phone". I felt very awkward the other day speaking to Mrs Jones because I just didn't know what to say first. Could you possibly give me a few hints what I can do, that I won't feel so embarrassed the next time? Or what am I to say when I try to ring someone up and the person who answers the phone is not the person I want to speak to. Thank's a lot,

Yours sincerely,

Maja W. (from Kiel, Germany)


Dear Miss W

Well, I'm sure you must be excited going away from home, for the first time, I suppose. You will find it very easy answering the phone once you get there. More or less it is same as in your own language.

When the telephone rings, you pick up the receiver or with a mobile you press the right button. When you have done this, you say "hello" or you may say your telephone number or just your name. She or he (on the other side of the line) may also say "hello" or immediately start his/her message. That's all. You'll find phoning very easy and informal in Britain which is due to the increasing use of mobile phones.

In business, it is normal for the person on the switch-board (that's the person who first answers the call) to say the name of the firm. And then the person who receives the call usually says his or her name. Business people sometimes also say their names at home, when they receive calls. but it's more common to say the number or just hello.

Just imagine the following business call:

brrr.. brrr... (the phone rings)

A: "Smith and Brown limited (Smith & Brown Ltd.)"
B: "O, hello, could I speak to Mr. Brown, please?"
A: "Putting you through..."

brrr... brrr... (Mr. Brown's phone rings)

Brown: "Brown" B: "Oh, good morning, this is Jane Allan from United Electronics" Brown: "Ah, good morning Mrs. Allan" B: ...

Now, the other thing you wanted to know, was, what to say when the person who answers the phone is not the person you want to speak to. Well, there are several possible reasons why the wrong person is answering the phone. For example, maybe, you got the wrong number, or maybe, the person you want to speak to, just happens not to pick up the phone. In that case the conversation might go like this:

First a private call:

brrr.. brrr... (the phone rings)

A: "Hello" B: "Hello, could I speak to Peter, please?" A: "I'm sorry, she is not in at the moment. Who is calling?" B: "Helen." A: "Oh hello Helen, can I take a message?" B: ...

And now, a business call:

brrr.. brrr... (the phone rings)

A: "Jackson and partners"
B: "Extension 435 please"
A: "One moment, please"

brrr.. brrr... (the phone 435 rings)

C: "Wilkins" B: "Could I speak to Mr. Stone please?" C: "I'm afraid he is out of the office at the moment. Can I get him to call you back?"

In that case, the person, who B wants to speak to, will telephone him later. Now, for another reason why the wrong person answers the phone - because you dialed the wrong number or because the telephone equipment put you through to the wrong number - the conversation might go like this:

A: "27928" B: "Oh, I'm sorry, I think I've got the wrong number. I'm sorry to have bothered you." A: "That's quite all right."

Another way the conversation could go is this:

A: "Hello." B: "Oh, eh, could I speak to Elisabeth?" A: "There is no Elisabeth here, I think you've got the wrong number." B: "Oh, I am sorry."

So, no need to worry. I think, you soon find out yourself. Just keep on trying. And just keep in mind that the one on the other side of the line is not able to see you.


Mrs Gobbledygook

13 March 2009