Telephone Skills Wait

Wait a minute for telephone skills

Can your English telephone skills wait? No, they cannot. Do not let your telephone skills wait.

I was in the middle of a conversation with Chris Chen when he said, “Wait a minute. The phone rings.” When we returned to our conversation, I suggested a few alternatives to saying “Wait a minute. The phone rings”. What can you say when you have to interrupt a conversation to take a call?  Just saying ” Wait a minute” is not the best choice. Here are five ways to say that you have to answer another call.

1. Hang on a minute. I’ve got to take a call. – This sounds informal and direct.
2. Hold on for just a minute. I have to take this call. – This, also, sounds informal and direct.
3. Excuse me. I have to take a call. I’ll be just one minute. – This is a more polite and less direct.
4. Could I ask you to wait just one minute, please? I have to answer this call. – This is polite and less direct.
5. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to answer this call. Could you, please, wait just one minute? –  This is polite and less direct.

And, of course, these are other ways to tell someone that your’re going to answer or take another call.

Even though you intend to take the call, you can ask the person you’re speaking with if it is okay, as in examples four and five. These examples sound less abrupt and can help soften an interruption, especially if it’s a very important conversation. Example three sounds neutral.  Use examples one and two for conversations that don’t require you to be so polite or that may not require you to be so careful about how you say that you have to answer a call.

And here’s a grammar note:

The phone rings. Does it? Yes, it does. How often does that happen? It happens every day. The phone rings every day. This happens regularly.

The phone is ringing (now). This is happening now, and it is, of course, temporary. It will stop ringing, and then it will ring again later because the phone rings regularly every day.

If you the phone rings while you are on another call, then say, “The phone is ringing”, not “The phone rings”.