What to do if you don’t understand on the phone
An example of someone having difficulties understanding
Here’s an example of a call in which one person has difficulties understanding . After listening to it, please check your understanding by doing the quiz below. You may listen to the audio again, at the same time you do the quiz, and start and stop the audio at any time.
Here’s some language to help you if you are having difficulties understanding
Often, when we’re not expecting a phone call in English, we are surprised and get a little stressed. Here are a few things you can say to give you some time to prepare yourself.
- I’m sorry could you excuse me for one minute while I get a pen?
- I’m sorry could you hold the line while I look for (pull up) that email?
It is common, even for native speakers, not to understand what the other person said, because of a bad line or the person was speaking too quickly. This is what we normally say when this happens.
If you couldn’t hear what the person said
- Sorry / Pardon?
- I’m sorry/I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch that, could you repeat it again please?
- TIP – We use the word “catch” here as a synonym to “understand”. It doesn’t mean anything was thrown.
- Sorry, the line is bad, could you say that again please?
- Sorry, could you say that again please (a little slower / a little louder)?
If you don’t understand what they said
- Sorry I don’t follow you.
- I’m afraid I (still) don’t know what you mean.
- Sorry, can you repeat the first word/ the last part/…?