Free English Lessons

Talking on the Phone – Listening Lesson (A1-A2)

Making phone calls in another language is much harder than talking face-to-face. In this free English listening lesson from Oxford Online English, you can listen to an example dialogue and learn useful words and phrases to help you with talking on the phone in English. This is a lesson for elementary and pre-intermediate learners.

Listen to the dialogue at normal speed here:

listen to a slower version here:

or hear the woman’s parts only, here:

Man: Hello?
Woman: Hello, I’d like to speak to Paul Verhoeven, please.
Man: I’m afraid he’s with a client at the moment. Can I take a message1?
Woman: Er, OK… Do you know when he’ll be available?
Man: I’m not sure, but I can take a message or just get him to call you back2.
Woman: Well, what I need is quite hard to explain, so could you just tell him Wendy called, from ProLingua.
Man: Sure, and what’s the number?
Woman: He should have it3, but just in case4: it’s 020-411-76855
Man: OK, I’ll let him know.
Woman: The only thing is6 that I’m leaving in two hours, at 4.00. After that it’ll have to wait till7 tomorrow.
Man: OK, I’ll tell him.
Woman: That’s great, thanks very much.
Man: No problem, bye bye!
Woman: Bye!

The vocabulary in these notes will give you many of the answers for the exercises below. You may prefer to try those exercises first, then come back to this section if you need to.

1. Can I take a message? = Do you want to tell me why you’re calling so I can tell him?
2. Get someone to do something = ask someone to do something.
3. He should have it = I think he probably has it.
4. (Just) in case means you do something to be careful, because you’re not 100% sure what will happen. For example: Take an umbrella, in case it rains.
5. Phone numbers in English are usually pronounced digit-by-digit, for example this number would be: “oh-two-oh, four-one-one, seven-six-eight-five.” We normally say “oh” instead of zero. If there are two of the same numbers next to each other, we say “double”, like the woman does here.
6. The (only) thing is is a phrase used to introduce a small problem or something you’re worried about. For example: That sounds fine, but the only thing is that I won’t be able to start until next month.
7. Till = until

This lesson is designed for elementary learners to do the first exercise and pre-intermediate learners to do a different one.

If you are an elementary learner, do exercises 1a, 2, 3 and 4.

If you are a pre-intermediate learner, try 1b, which is a bit harder, then do 2, 3 and 4.

Talking on the Phone – exercise 1a (Level A1)
Listening skill: listen and read

Listen to five sentences from the dialogue. They are all phrases that people use when they answer the phone at work.

Put the words in the order you hear them.

Talking on the Phone – exercise 1b (Level A2)
Listening skill: listen and write

Listen to five sentences from the dialogue. They are all phrases that people use when they answer the phone at work.

Write one word in the gap each time.

Talking on the Phone – exercise 2
Comprehension: following the conversation

This exercise will help you follow the conversation. Look at five things that the woman mentions. Before you listen to the full dialogue, imagine that you are making the phone call. What order would you say this information?

Now listen to the dialogue and put the five things in the order the woman says them.

Talking on the Phone – exercise 3
Comprehension: identifying details

Now you can see the order that the information is mentioned. Can you identify the correct details?

Look at the two options for each question and write one letter, a or b, in each gap.

Talking on the Phone – exercise 4
Vocabulary and Grammar: taking a message

Now imagine that you’re the man in the dialogue and you’re going to write an email to your colleague to say that the woman phoned.

You will need to use vocabulary that you have heard in the dialogue and think about the grammar of your sentences.

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