Telephone politeness competition game and roleplays

Take turns making one of the phrases below more and more polite. If there are two similar phrases next to each other, choose one. You can add or change words as much as you like, but the meaning must remain the same. Whenever the phrases stop becoming more polite, the most polite wins and you can move onto another.

– Alex Case.

– Sales.

– I need to speak to Jamie Gallagher./ Put me through to Jamie Gallagher.

– He’s not here./ He’s out.

– He’s on holiday.

– Hold./ Don’t hang up.

– Hold on./ Wait./ Give us a sec.

– This is going to have to be quick, but…

– Okay to talk?

– You cut me off.

– What’s it about?/ Why do you want to speak to him?  

– What’s your name?/ Who are you?

– You’ve got the wrong person./ You need to speak to…, not me.

– Wrong number.

– Have you got a message for him?/ Wanna leave a message?

– Give me your name and number and I’ll get him to phone back.

– Please take a message.

– Please tell him to call me back.

– That’s no good, I need to speak to him in person.

– Please give me his mobile number.

– I want to complain about the product that you sent./ The product that you sent me doesn’t work.

– About the email you just sent me,…

– You’ve read my email, right?/ I hope you’ve already read my email.

– Please speak more slowly.

– Please spell that.

– Say again/ What?

– I can’t hear you/ Speak up

– I can’t understand you.

– That’s wrong. It’s org, not com.

– You mean…, right?

– Got it?

– One word or two?

– I’m busy. I’ll call you back.

– I’ll check.

– Phone me back asap.

– Please send me that in writing by Friday.

– You’ll never understand this over the phone.

– Anything else?/ Is that it?

Go through the whole list above and make all of them at least acceptably polite, without looking below and then using the words below to help you.

Words that you could add above

actually

afraid

ask

bit

can

chance

concerning

help

if

just

little

might

moment

seem

shall

soon

thanks

unfortunately

would 

Use each of the phrases above in at least one of the phrases on the first page. You may need to add, replace or completely rewrite the sentences.

Compare your answers with the answer key.

What are the general rules for avoiding rudeness and making sentences more polite? 

Classify these as formal or formal, then find examples above or in the answer key to check your answers:

–       Phrasal verbs and other idioms

–       Abbreviations

–       Past tenses with present meanings

–       Longer sentences

–       Longer words

–       Negative words

–       Vague excuses 

Play the same game as on the first page, but this time just trying to make what you say longer and longer.

Do the same with other situations and phrases.

What other polite phrases can you use in telephoning?

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Telephone politeness competition game

Suggested answers (with the suggested words above in bold)

Alex Case. – Alex Case speaking. How can I help you?/ Alex Case speaking. How may I help you?/ Alex Case speaking. How can I be of assistance?

Sales. – Sales department. Alex speaking. How can I help you?

I need to speak to Jamie Gallagher./ Put me through to Jamie Gallagher. – Can you put me through to Jamie Gallagher?/ Is Jamie Gallagher there?

He’s not here./ He’s out. – I’m afraid he’s not at his desk at the moment. Would you like me to take a message?

He’s on holiday. – He’s out of the country./ He isn’t in the office today./ He’s on annual leave.

Hold./ Don’t hang up. – Please hold (the line) while I…/ Can you hold (the line)?

Hold on./ Wait./ Give us a sec. – Just a moment while…

This is going to have to be quick, but… – Just a quick call to say…

Okay to talk? – Is this a bad time?/ Do you have time to talk?

You cut me off. – We seem to have been cut off.

 

What’s it about?/ Why do you want to speak to him?  – Can I ask what it is concerning, please?

What’s your name?/ Who are you? – Can I ask your name?/ Who shall I say is calling?/ Can I just check your name?

You’ve got the wrong person./ You need to speak to…, not me. – You might be better off speaking to…/ That is usually dealt with by…/ I’m afraid you’ve been put through to the wrong person.

Wrong number. – You seem to have dialled a wrong number.

Have you got a message for him?/ Wanna leave a message? – Would you like to leave a message?/ Can I take a message?

Give me your name and number and I’ll get him to phone back. – If I can take your name and number, I’ll ask him to call you back.

Please take a message. – Can I leave a message?/ Can you take a message?

Please tell him to call me back. – Can you ask him to call me back?

That’s no good, I need to speak to him in person. – Actually, I really need to speak to him in person.

Please give me his mobile number. – Is there any chance you could give me his mobile number?

 

I want to complain about the product that you sent./ The product that you sent me doesn’t work. – Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with the product that you sent me.

About the email you just sent me,… – Thanks for emailing earlier. I wanted to speak to you about…

You’ve read my email, right?/ I hope you’ve already read my email. –Did you receive my email?/ Have you had a chance to read my email?

 

Please speak more slowly. – Could you speak a little more slowly, please?/ Can you speak a bit more slowly, please?

Please spell that. – How do you spell that?/ Can you spell that for me?

Say again/ What? – Pardon?/ Sorry, I didn’t catch…

I can’t hear you/ Speak up – (There’s a lot of noise here). Can you speak a little more loudly?

I can’t understand you. – I’m afraid I’m not following you.

That’s wrong. It’s org, not com. – Actually, it’s org, not com.

You mean…, right? – Can I just double check? Do you mean… or…?

Got it? – Are you following me?/ Shall I repeat that?

One word or two? – Is that one word or two?

 

I’m busy. I’ll call you back. – I’m a bit tied up at the moment. Can I call you back?/ I’m rather busy right now. Would it be okay for me to call you back?

I’ll check. – I’ll check and get back to you as soon as I can.

Phone me back asap. – Can you get back to me as soon as you can?

Please send me that in writing by Friday. – Can you confirm that in writing by the end of the week?

You’ll never understand this over the phone. – I’m not sure that I can explain this over the phone./ It might be better for me to email it to you./ It might be better for us to talk about it face to face.

Anything else?/ Is that it? – Can I help you with anything else today?/ Was there anything else?

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Formality in telephoning roleplays

The person who takes or chooses one of the cards below should try and do that thing. Both people can read the card before starting the roleplay.

Phone someone you know (that person answers the phone) – Formal

Phone someone you know (that person answers the phone) – Informal

Phone someone you know (someone else who you know answers the phone) – Formal

Phone someone you know (someone else who you know answers the phone) – Informal

Phone someone to complain – Formal

Phone someone to complain – Informal

Insist on speaking to someone – Formal

Insist on speaking to someone – Informal

Take a message – Formal

Take a message – Informal

Try to keep a phone call very short – Formal

Try to keep a phone call very short – Informal

Deal with technical problems with the phone – Formal

Deal with technical problems with the phone – Informal

Deal with background noise – Formal

Deal with background noise – Informal

The person your partner wants to talk to refuses to speak to them – Formal

The person your partner wants to talk to refuses to speak to them – Informal

Phone someone about an email they sent you – Formal

Phone someone about an email they sent you – Informal

Interrupt the phone call for a while for some reason – Formal

Interrupt the phone call for a while for some reason – Informal

Double check details – Formal

Double check details – Informal

Dictate something – Formal

Dictate something – Informal

Request something – Formal

Request something – Informal

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PDF version for easy saving and printing: telephone-politeness-competition-game

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