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Formal and informal Telephone Talks

The language used for speaking on the telephone is basically very similar to that of ordinary conversation, but limited in certain important respects by the special situation, which imposes a number of restrictions. Attention may be called to some of the chief differences between formal and informal telephone conversations. The most notable difference is that a formal telephone conversation is conducted at a much more formal level because the people speaking are taking care to maintain the high level of politeness usually felt appropriate in this kind of discussion. Another difference is that the formal discussion is very precise and factual, keeping to the point and never straying off into the chatty vagueness which is found at times in informal telephone conversations. Finally, there is of course a considerable difference in the vocabulary, with more technical terms than one would expect to find in the average informal telephone conversation, and a mixture of formal and informal words and phrases. Informal chatty telephone calls usually take place between friends who have nothing in particular to discuss and are simply engaging in a bit of social pleasantness. In this kind of telephone conversation there is a great deal of informal idiom.


1. Business and Commerce

Operator: Good morning. Hawles Engineering. Can I help you?

Mr Weston: Id like to speak to Mr James Marsh, please, I think its extension forty-seven.

Operator: Whos calling, please?

Mr Weston: My name is Weston. Im from Plant Installations Limited.

Operator: Will you hold the line for a moment, Mr Weston? Ill see if Mr Marsh is free[17].

Mr Weston: Yes, thank you.

Mr Marsh: Hello. Marsh speaking[18].

Operator: Oh, hello, Mr Marsh. Ive got a MrWeston[19] from Plant Installations on the line[20]. Can you speak to him now?

Mr Marsh: Oh yes. Thank you. Put him through, please.

Operator: Youre through now, Mr Weston.

Mr Marsh: Hello, Mr Weston. What can I do for you?[21]

Mr Weston: Good morning, Mr Marsh. Youll remember that our surveyor[22] took another look at the floor of your main polishing shop last week.

Mr Marsh: Yes.

Mr Weston: Well Ive just got his report, andI thought Id let you know the result.

Mr Marsh:Splendid[23]. That was quick work[24].

Mr Weston: Yes, it was quite quick, wasnt it? And youll be pleased to know[25] that hes been able to confirm what he said in his original report. Mr Marsh: Has he? Oh, good.

Mr Weston: Yes, he says that the subsidence[26] hasnt gone any further since he first inspected the floor, and that theres no need to increase the strengthening measures he recommended.

Mr Marsh: Well Im very pleased to hear that, Mr Weston. Youve taken a load off my mind[27].

Mr Weston: Yes, Im glad it wont be necessary to hold things up[28] on account of the floor. Ill confirm all this in writing of course, but I thought that Id let you know as soon as possible in the hope that we could agree on a defenite starting date.

Mr Marsh: Yes, of course.

Mr Weston: If we can fix that, then I can go ahead with arrangements here.

Mr Marsh: Well itll take us about two days to finish off the outstanding work[29] in the plating and polishing shops[30], and then you can have a free hand[31] to begin your operations. How does that suit you?

Mr Weston: Two days. That brings us to Thursday morning[32], doesnt it?

Mr Marsh: Thursday, yes.

Mr Weston: And I did understand you to say we could continue working at week-ends.

Mr Marsh: Yes, thats right.

Mr Weston: Well in that case Thursday morning will suit us very well. Ill put it in hand[33] straight away.

Mr Marsh: Good.

Mr Weston: Now there is one other matter that Id like to discuss breifly with you if you can spare the time. Im not keeping you from anything[34], am I?

Mr Marsh: No, I do have[35] a meeting in about half an hour, but Im at your disposal[36] until then, so please carry on[37], Mr Weston.

Mr Weston: Well, this is a point which concerns the outlet duct[38] for the main ventilator.

Mr Marsh: Ah, yes. You asked to be sent the final plans, didnt you? Did you get those?

Mr Weston: Yes, thanks. Your secretary sent them on to me. Now I see from the plans that you intend the duct to be placed alongside an existing chimney. Do you recall that?

Mr Marsh: Mm. Thats right.

Mr Weston: Well, what Id like to know is whether the chimneys strong enough to support the duct, or whether we shall have to construct independent supports. Now unfortunately, at the time of our survey, we didnt think to inspect[39] the chimney.

Mr Marsh: No, of course, because at that stage we still hadnt decided exactly where the duct was to go.

Mr Weston: Quite. So can you give me any idea of the strength of the chimney? You see, if we can use it as a support and bolt the duct brackets directly to it, thisll mean a simpler job and it should also save a certain amount of time.

Mr Marsh: And itll be cheaper, too.

Mr Weston: Yes, quite a bit cheaper, in fact.

Mr Marsh: Mm. Well, all I can tell you at the moment is that the chimney was only built a couple of years ago, and is in good structural condition. What I cant tell you, with any degree of certainty, is whether itll stand up to the kind of stress youre proposing to put on it. As far as I can remember its a pretty strong job, so it should be all right.

Mr Weston: Yes. Well, it looks quite strong on our plans, but I cant really tell, because theyre not sufficiently detailed.

Mr Marsh: No. Well, look, MrWeston[40], I think wed better not take any risks over this. Ill call in a building expert and get him to examine the chimney, and perhaps youll be good enough to send me brief details of the loadings[41] involved and the kind of brackets youre thinking of using and so on. And Ill put them in front of him and see what he thinks.

Mr Weston: Yes, I can get that in the post this evening.

Mr Marsh: You can? Fine[42].

Mr Weston: Well, that answers my question, Mr Marsh. Thank you very much.

Mr Marsh: Not at all[43]. And thank you for letting me know about the report so quickly. Ill get things moving[44] here, and well expect your men to start work on Thursday morning.

Mr Weston: Yes, theyll be there. Good-bye, Mr Marsh, Ill be in touch again when the works started.

Mr Marsh: Bye, Mr Weston.

2. Casual Business

Mr Hopkinson: Hello. Mr Hopkinson speaking.

Mr Stock: Hello, Tom. Stock here.

Mr Hopkinson: You are just the man I wanted to speak to.

Mr Stock: Well, here I am. Whats it all about, then?

Mr Hopkinson: Well, you know that emergency delivery to Stockholm we were talking about the other day?

Mr Stock: Yes you mean the one they wanted delivered by the 25th? Mr Hopkinson: Yes, thats the one. Theyve been on the telex about it to us only this morning, and now they say they must have it by the beginning of next week. I dont know. What with that and this[45] big French order weve got coming up, Ive been up to my ears in it[46].

Mr Stock: I see. Then wed better get it off pretty soon, hadnt we?

Mr Hopkinson: Yes, theyre counting on us.

Mr Stock: Thats right. I know old Gustavsson pretty well, actually, and I shouldnt like to let him down either.

Mr Hopkinson: Well have to think of something, then, shant we? Whats old Gustavsson like, by the way?

Mr Stock: Bit difficult to describe, actually. Round fortyish[47] and a little bit heavy-going[48] perhaps. Got his head screwed on the right way[49], though.

Mr Hopkinson: That was my impression too, actually.

Mr Stock: Anyway, to get back to this delivery job, is there anything in particular thats holding us up? Havent we got all the things we want on hand[50]?

Mr Hopkinson: No, it isnt that so much. Were a bit short-handed[51] on the packing side[52], you see. Theyve all been working like the clappers[53] on this French job, and havent got round to[54] this other lot yet.

Mr Stock: Lets see. Its Friday tomorrow, isnt it? That makes it a bit tricky[55].

Mr Hopkinson: Look, Ive been thinking. What about offering the boys in despatch a spot of[56] overtime over the week-end? We can bung[57] the whole lot into one lorry and get it straight off to Hull. Should be on the quayside by Monday morning.

Mr Stock: Yes, of course thats the answer. Shouldve thought of that before. Well, thats that one solved then. Better be getting back, I suppose. Will you tell Fred, or shall I?

Mr Hopkinson: Well, Im seeing him this afternoon in any case so Ill see to it, if you like, Peter.

Mr Stock: Would you? Thats splendid. Look, I must push off now. Im seeing that chap from Bensons at two-thirty.

Mr Hopkinson: Yes, dont you worry. Ill see thats all laid on[58]. Bye.

Mr Stock: Bye.


I. Define the meaning of these words and phrases. Make up sentences using them.

surveyor, quick work, subsidence, to hold things up, on account of smth., in writing, to go ahead with arrangements, the outstanding work, to have a free hand, to put it in hand, to be at ones disposal, to carry on, with any degree of certainty, to stand up to the stress, to get smth. in the post, to get things moving, emergency delivery, to be on the telex, what with that and this, to be up to ones ears in work, to get smth. off, to count on smb., to let smb. down, round fortyish, heavy-going, to get ones head screwed on the right way, to hold smb. up, to get things on hand, to be a bit short-handed on smth., to work like the clappers, to make it tricky, to bung the whole lot into one lorry, to push off, all laid on


II. Rephrase these sentences.

1. Youve taken a load off my mind. 2. That brings us to Thursday morning. 3. Ill put it in hand straight away. 4. Im not keeping you from anything? 5. Ill call in a building expert and get him to examine the chimney. 6. I can get that in the post this evening. 7. Ill get things moving here. 8. You mean the one they wanted delivered by the 25th. 9. Theyve been on the telex about it to us this morning. 10. What with that and this big French order weve got coming up, Ive been up to my ears in it. 11. Then wed better get it off pretty soon. 12. Havent we got all the things we want on hand? 13. Were a bit short-handed on the packing-side. 14. What about offering the boys in despatch a spot of overtime over the week-end?


III. Reproduce the telephone conversations as close to the text as possible.


IV. Make up telephone conversations considering these assignments.

1. Brown amp; Co. for some reason or other have not delivered the goods in the stipulated time. Phone the Company and let them know that they are responsible for the delay and have either to make emergency delivery within a week or to pay you a penalty.

2. You are decorating your apartment. The work is progressing very slowly. Phone the manager of the Company and ask him to offer his workmen a spot of overtime over the week-end so that they could finish off all the outstanding work within two days.

3. Youve been up to your ears in work over the past two weeks and failed to send a book on Soviet art to your colleague. Phone him, offer your apologies and say that you do remember your promise and that you will get the book in the post this afternoon.



1. An Advertisement

Charles: Two-six-two four-three-double four. Charles Farmer speaking.

Joan: Hello, Charles, its Joan Joan Cook.

Charles: Hello, Joan, how are you?

Joan: Im very well, thanks[59]. How are you?

Charles: Oh, not so bad, you know.

Joan: Good. I rang to ask if you know anything about hotels in Brighton.

Charles: No, Im afraid[60] I cant be very much help to you there[61].

Joan: Well, its just that weve been thinking of taking the family to the south this summer and at this rather late stage were trying to organize[62]ourselves a suitable hotel. But I thought that youd been to Brighton;

Charles: I have. Several times. But Ive always taken a tent and done it the hard way[63].

Joan: Oh, I see. I didnt realize that.

Charles: Yes. Great one for the open air[64], you know.

Joan: Oh, it must be nice, but we could never contemplate it with our lot[65]. Were terribly disorganized as a family, you know, and wed be in chaos in no time. And in any case the car isnt big enough to get all of us in and camping equipment as well, so we simply must find ourselves a nice hotel where theyll put up with[66] noisy kids.

Charles: Mm. You have got a problem. And its certainly a bit late. But there are masses of adverts. Have you looked at those?

Joan: Well, yes. As a matter of fact I was reading one advert only this morning in the Sunday paper which sounded marvellous.

Charles: For a hotel?

Joan: Yes. Just outside Brighton. And I thought to myself Ill give Charles a ring[67]. He may know it.

Charles: Oh, dear I am a dead loss[68], arent I. But tell me about the advert.

Joan: It said that this hotel was right on the beach, and thats essential as far as were concerned, because the kids are really only interested in scrabbling[69] in the sand and popping into[70] the sea every five minutes, so we must be close to it-the closer the better.

Charles: I know just how it is[71].

Joan: And all the rooms have balconies facing the sea and overlooking the beach so it should be possible for mum and dad[72] to keep half an eye on[73] the kids while theyre playing and manage a quiet snooze at the same time occasionally.

Charles: Sounds too good to be true[74]. Expensive?

Joan: Rather. But still the prices were a bit lower than in any of the other adverts Ive seen, and yet the facilities were as good or even better. You know, even allowing for[75] a bit of exaggeration in the advert, it seemed to have a lot to offer[76].

Charles: Had it?

Joan: Oh, yes. And the food is good according to the advert, again but theyre bound to say that.

Charles: Of course. The only way to find out for certain is to go and try it. And thats taking rather a risk. I tell you what[77], though. Its just occurred to me Mr and Mrs Croft from over the road[78] have been to that part of England several times, and I seem to remember them saying they always use the same hotel.

Joan: Do they?

Charles: Yes. At least I think thats what they said. Ill pop around[79] later this evening, and if they do know anything that might be of use to you Ill get one or the other of them to give you a ring.

Joan: Would you? Thats very kind of you. They wont mind, will they?

Charles: No, of course not. Im sure theyll be pleased to help.

Joan: Well, thats marvellous.

Charles: Did you say something about taking the car?

Joan: Yes. It takes a little longer. But there is no need to rush, because Dougs got an extra weeks holiday this year.

Charles: Lucky Doug. But isnt it rather a long drive from Edinburgh what with the children and the holiday traffic[80]?

Joan: Well, strange as it may seem, the kids are very good in the car. And if you go by train or air you dont see much on the way, youre sort of insulated from all the lovely places youre passing.

Charles: Yes, I agree with you.

Joan: But Im sure you must have better things to do than listen to me rattling on[81].

Charles: Oh, thats all right. Its nice to hear from you. But I will drop in on the Crofts and ask them to phone you. Dont expect to hear anything until after nine, though, because theyre usually out on Sunday until some time in the evening.

Joan: Well, I shall be around[82] whatever time they ring. Busy getting things ready for school tomorrow. And thanks again, Charles. It really is very kind of you to go to all this trouble.

Charles: No trouble at all. Only too glad[83] to help if I can.

Joan: Well, thanks anyway. Bye-bye, Charles.

Charles: Bye for now, Joan.

2. A Letter of Application

Joe:Peatley two-seven-one[84].

Bob: Hello, is that you, Joe?

Joe: Yes.

Bob: Bob here. Hows things?[85]

Joe: Oh, hello, Bob. Fine. How are you?

Bob:. K. Listen, Ive decided to apply for that job I was telling you about. You remember?

Joe: Yes. I remember. Croydon[86], wasnt it? What was it, a car factory?

Bob: No, light engineering. Rather like that place I was at in Leeds.

Joe: Oh yes, of course. Light engineering. I remember now. And it was for a manager, wasnt it.

Bob: Yes. Personnel Manager.

Joe: Very nice too. Do you feel optimistic about it?

Bob: Well, I wouldnt say I exactly feel optimistic, but at least my training and experience have put me in with a chance[87]. So perhaps I could say I feel reasonably optimistic about getting short-listed[88]. But the interview thats different.

Joe: Why, for goodness sake?[89] Youre not scared of interviews, are you?

Bob: No, Im not scared of them, but I dont feel at my best in interviews. Not when Im on the receiving end[90], that is. I suppose I spend so much of my time interviewing other people that I feel off balance when Im in the hot seat[91] myself.

Joe: Oh, I shoudnt worry too much about it if I were you[92]. As you say, the job is absolutely made for you. I shoudnt think theyll get many applicants with your qualifications[93].

Bob: Well, well see[94].

Joe: Yes. Youre bound to get an interview. Whats the pay like incidentally?

Bob: Oh, the pays good. Nearly twice what Im getting now.Joe: Mm!

Bob: But then it is in London, and the rates tend to be a lot higher there, anyway.

Joe: Yes, but even so, itll make a big difference if you get it. Youll be loaded[95]!

Bob: Well, I dont know about[96] loaded. I should need a damned sight more than twice my present wages to be loaded.

outcome of something.

Joe: Was the money the main reason for applying?

Bob: One of the reasons. Probably, not the main reason.

Joe: What was that then?

Bob: Well, I dont know, its just that I well, I like working at Yorkshire Engineering, but Id like more scope[97] for putting a few ideas into practice. You know, old Billings[98] is all right, hes very understanding and pleasant to work for and all that.

Joe: Yes.

Bob: And hed never do anyone a bad turn[99], but

Joe: Hes a stick-in-the-mud[100].

Bob: Well no, not exactly, but hes very slow to respond to new ideas. He will accept changes, but it takes him so long to come round to a new idea that by the time hes trying it out its not new any longer.

Joe: And that doesnt suit you.

Bob: Well it doesnt really bother me, but, I mean, youve got to move with the times[101] these days or youre soon left behind.

Joe: Too true[102].

Bob: So, anyway, I thought Id have a bash[103].

Joe: Good for you[104]. I hope you fed[105] them all that guff[106] about your qualifications and experience in your application.

Bob: Oh yes, of course.

Joe: But you didnt lay it on too thick[107], did you? They can go off[108] if you make yourself sound too good, you know.

Bob: Well, I dont think I did. I just tried to be factual and emphasise the most important points.

Joe: I bet youll cake walk it[109]. Ill keep my fingers crossed[110] for you, at any rate.

Bob: Thanks, Ill need it.

Joe: But what about the prospect of going South? Does that bother you at all?

Bob: Well, I know its got its disadvantages. Housings very expensive and travelling in the rush hour can be a bit of a bind[111]. But no doubt its got its compensations, too, and if you want to get on youve got to be prepared to move around, havent you?

Joe: Well, thats true. But youve always lived in Yorkshire and youll find things very different in London. No more Sunday mornings on the moors[112].

Bob: Hey, steady on[113]! I havent got the job yet.

Joe: No, but if you do get it you wont be able to pop out[114] of the back door and run up a mountain.

Bob: True. That is something that Id miss. Thats one thing about these parts youre never very far from some real country. Still, I suppose I could get used to country lanes in the Home Counties[115] if I had to.

Joe: Ugh! You dont call that walking, do you?

Bob: Well, no, not really, but you cant have everything, so Id have to amuse myself in other ways. They do have a few more theatres and museums than we do, you know.

Joe: Youll get fat, middle-aged and civilised. What a fate.

Bob: Ill have to ring off now. Ive got one or two things to do before I turn in[116].

Joe:. K. But dont forget to let me know if you get an interview.

Bob: I will. Cheerio.

Joe: Cheerio, Bob. Thanks for ringing.


I. Define the meaning of these words and phrases. Make up sentences using them.

to organise oneself a suitable hotel, to do smth. the hard way, to be a great one for smth., with ones lot, to put up smb., to put up with smb. (smth.), masses of adverts, to be a dead loss, to scrabble in the sand, to pop into the sea, to overlook the beach, to keep half an eye on smb., to manage a quiet snooze, facilities, to allow for a bit of exaggeration, over the road, to pop around, what with the children and the holiday traffic, to rattle on, to apply for a job, light engineering, to put smb. in with a chance, to get shortlisted, to feel at ones best, to feel off balance, to be in the hot seat, an applicant, the pay, to be loaded, to have more scope for smth., a stick-in-the-mud, to move with the times, to be left behind, to have a bash, to go off smth., to keep ones fingers crossed for smb., a bit of a bind, to amuse oneself, to turn in


II. Rephrase these sentences.

1. I cant be very much help to you. 2. Ive always taken a tent and done it the hard way. 3. Great one for the open air. 4. They will put up with noisy kids. 5. Im a dead loss. 6. Sounds too good to be true. 7. You know, even allowing for a bit of exaggeration in the advert, it seemed to have a lot to offer. 8. They are bound to say that. 9. Strange as it may seem, the kids are very good in the car. 10. If you go by train you are sort of insulated from all the lovely places you are passing. 11. It really is very kind of you to go to all this trouble. 12. Ive decided to apply for that job. 13. My training and experience have put me in with a chance. 14. I feel reasonably optimistic about getting short-listed. 15. I dont feel at my best in interviews. 16. I feel off balance when Im in the hot seat myself. 17. I shoudnt think theyll get many applicants with your qualifications. 18. Whats the pay like incidentally? Nearly twice what Im getting now. 19. The rates tend to be a lot higher there, anyway. 20. Youll be loaded! 21. I should need a damned sight more than twice my present wages to be loaded. 22. Hed never do anyone a bad turn. 23. Hes a stick-in-the-mud. 24. Hes very slow to respond to new ideas. 25. I hope you fed them all that guff about your qualifications and experience in your application. 26. I thought Id have a bash. 27. But you didnt lay it on too thick. 28. They can go off you. 29. I bet youll cake walk it. 30. Travelling in the rush hour can be a bit of a bind. 31. Ill have to ring off now.


III. Fill in the missing remarks in these snatches of telephone conversation (see Conversations 1 and 2).

1. C: Two-six-two four-three-double four. Charles Farmer speaking.



2. C.: Hello, Joan, how are you?


C.: Oh, not so bad, you know.


3. C.: But Ive always taken a tent and done it the hard way.



4. J.:

C.: Oh dear, I am a dead loss, arent I. But tell me about the advert.



5. :.Sounds too good to be true. Expensive?



6. C.:

J.: Would you? Thats very kind of you. They wont mind, will they?



7. C.: No, of course not. Im sure theyll be pleased to help.



8. J.: It really is very kind of you to go to all this trouble.



9. .: Bob here. Hows things?



10. J.: Very nice, too. Do you feel optimistic about it?



11. J.: I shoudnt think theyll get many applicants with your qualifications.



12. J.: Youre bound to get an interview. Whats the pay like incidentally?



13. J.: Was the money the main reason for applying?


J.: What was that then?



14. J.: I bet youll cake walk it. Ill keep my fingers crossed for you, at any rate.



IV. Reproduce the telephone conversations as close to the text as possible.


V. Make up telephone conversations considering these assignments.

1. Your colleague has come back from Italy where he spent his vacation. Phone him and have a talk about: a) the places he has been to; b) the hotels he has put up at; c) the facilities he has been offered; d) the hotel charges; e) the way he has amused himself; f) the people he has met.

2. You are taking a holiday and leaving Ottawa for a month. Phone your Canadian colleague to say good-bye and tell him how you are planning to spend your holiday.

3. You have a telephone call from your counterpart in London. After discussing business he says that his son is applying for a job. Ask him about the prospects of his sons new job, its advantages and disadvantages and what his son feels about it.

3. A Persuation Which Failed

Harry: Hallo 5289.

Cynthia: Is that Harry?

Harry: Yes whos that?

Cynthia: Oh, Harry. Its me, Cynthia.

Harry: Cynthia? Cynthia! Oh yes. How are you?

Cynthia: Im fine. And you and Barbara?

Harry: Oh, were both well.

Cynthia: Oh, thats good. Look, Im ringing to ask you a small favour. I hope you dont mind.

Harry: No. No, of course not. Anything I can do, within reason[117].

Cynthia: Well, the thing is that you know Shirley?

Harry: Shirley? I dont think so.

Cynthia: You know, shes the girl I work with. I think you met her.

Harry: Did I? When?

Cynthia: Shes the one with red hair.

Harry: Oh.

Cynthia: Anyway, I wondered well you see Shirley and I are giving a party. Of course we wondered if you and Barbara would like to come

Harry: Well, thats very nice of you, Im sure.

Cynthia: Wed love to have you.

Harry: Wed love to come.

Cynthia: Well, the point is, you see, that we wanted to invite a lot of interesting people.

Harry: Oh yes -

Cynthia: Yes and well, you know our flat; it really isnt big enough. And we were wondering if there was just the smallest chance of having it at your place just for the evening, you know.

Harry: Well wed love to let you, of course. But just now it would be a little difficult.

Cynthia: Oh, no. It wouldnt be now. In about two weeks time.

Harry: Two weeks. Oh, I see. But unfortunately I think that would be even more difficult. You see, were haying part of the house redecorated, and in two weeks -

Cynthia: I suppose it wouldnt be possible to use the rooms that arent being decorated?

Harry: Well, you know what its like, Cynthia, when youve got the decorators in; you dont quite know where you are if you see what I mean -

Cynthia: Yes yes, of course. It is a pity. I dont know what well do.

Harry: Im sorry. Wed help if we could.

Cynthia: Well Good-bye then, Harry.

Harry: Good-bye, Cynthia.

4. Two Sisters on the Telephone

Joyce: Well, what have you been up to[118] since I saw you first?

Kate: I havent been up to anything, Im afraid[119]. Just the usual grind[120]. Have you been doing anything?

Joyce: No. James is off to Italy again tomorrow for his firm. He rings me every night from Turin, which is a comfort.

Kate: So youll be absolutely tied again with the children?

Joyce: Of course.

Kate: The firm would never pay for you to go to Italy as well, I suppose?

Joyce: As a matter of fact, thats just come up[121] for the first time. Theres a big job of entertaining coming off[121] in about a fortnight all the possible buyers and their wives are invited to Turin for a demonstration and a party afterwards, and they say theyd pay for me to go and play hostess[122]and look nice, but of course, with the children And anyway, what have I got to look nice in?

Kate: I say, ducky, Ive just got an idea. When is this do at Turin[123]? It wouldnt be at a week-end by any chance?

Joyce: Its to be a Saturday best time for a party.

Kate: Well, look here[124], why dont I come and look after[125] Michael and Jane for the week-end? Theyre not such demons[126] as you seem to think, you know. We usually get on fine[127].

Joyce: Oh its terribly sweet of you, but I couldnt.

Kate: Yes, you could. Now sort it out with James[128] this evening before he goes. Ill come over[129] on the Friday night, and Ill stay over the Monday too Ill get the day off from the office so you neednt get back till late on Monday and you can see a bit of Italy as well.

Joyce: No, I cant really Really you shouldnt.

Kate: Now shut up. No more nonsense. Its settled. Just see the frig[130] is full of food. Ill take them to the Zoo on Saturday. And whats wrong with that trouser suit? You look splendid in it.

Joyce: Do you really think I could? I never thought of a trouser suit for the party

5. Renting a House(Anglo-American Misunderstandings)

The telephone rings in a house in the London suburb of Twickenham.

An American Voice: Good morning. Is this Mrs Jones?[131]

Mrs Jones (rather puzzled): Im Mrs Jones.

American: Oh, fine. Im Drusilla Applebee, and Im calling[132] about your house you advertised to rent[133] for the summer months.

Mrs Jones (still rather puzzled): Why yes, when are you going to call?

Mrs Applebee: I mean Im calling you about it right now[134]. Were a large family and your house sounded the sort of place we need for July, August and September.

Mrs Jones: Oh, yes, of course. How many are you in your family?

Mrs Applebee: Six, so we hope you have plenty of closets[135].

Mrs Jones: Er oh, you mean what we call cupboards! Yes, weve got plenty of those. And lots of chests of drawers too.

Mrs Applebee: Chests of drawers?

Mrs Jones: Oh, I should have remembered the American term is dresser, isnt it?

Switchboard operator (in strong American voice): Are you through?

Mrs Jones: Oh, yes, Im through.

Mrs Applebee (simultaneously): No, no, were not through yet. Im speaking from my husbands office and theyre all Americans here. Gosh[136], Id no idea the British were so different about languages. What do you mean when you say you are through? We mean were finished with the call.

Mrs Jones: Oh dear, we mean weve been put through, were connected! Perhaps youd like to come and see the house and then we neednt misunderstand each other quite so much.

Mrs Applebee: I should love to see your house, but Ive no car right now. Can I get to you easily some other way? Im in Church Street.

Mrs Jones: You can take a 27 bus to the Twickenham roundabout, then use the subway right there

Mrs Applebee: Excuse me, I didnt know the subway went to Twickenham.

Mrs Jones: Oh, of course, my fault. The underground doesnt go to Twickenham. I just meant when you get off the bus you take the passage under the road and when you come up the other side our house is at the end of Aldridge Avenue, opposite. How soon would you like to come?

Mrs Applebee: Is three oclock today OK?

Mrs Jones: Fine, Ill expect you.


I. Define the meaning of these phrases. Make up sentences using them.

to ask somebody (to do) a favour, to be disorderly, to be rung up by somebody, to view ones suggestion (un)favourably, to do something within reason, to give a party, to be wondering if, to redecorate a room (cottage, house), to know where you are, to be up to something, just the usual grind, to be off to (some town or a country), to be a comfort, as a matter of fact, to play hostess, to look nice in some dress, to look after somebody, it is terribly sweet of you, to come over, to stay with somebody, to get a day off, its settled, whats wrong with him?, to be rather puzzled, to sound the sort of place we need, how many are you in the family?, to be so different about languages, to be put through, I should love to do something


II. Rephrase these sentences.

1. Im ringing to ask you a small favour. 2. Ill do anything within reason, of course. 3. Wed love to come. 4. In about two weeks time. 5. Well, you know what its like. 6. What have you been up to since I saw you last? 7. James is off to Great Britain. 8. This is a comfort. 9. Ill be tied with my work. 10. This situation has just come up for the first time. 11. Im not going to play hostess. 12. When is this do in our club? 13. Her children are such little demons. 14. We usually get on fine. 15. It is so sweet of you. 16. Sort it out with Mike first. 17. Wednesday is his day off. 18. Its settled. 19. What is wrong with him?


III. Give the American terms for:

to let, is that Mrs Jones?, to call up, a cupboard, a chest of drawers, to be through, now, subway, underground


IV. Fill in the missing remarks in these snatches of telephone conversation.

1.A: Is that Harry?



2. A: Ive been ringing you for ten minutes and cant get through. Whats the matter?



3. A: Could you do me a favour, Jack?



4.A: We wondered if you and your wife could come to our party.



5. A: We wanted to invite a lot of interesting people, but our flat is so small.



6. A: Why did you make up your mind to have your house redecorated?



7.A: Its a pity you will not come to our party.



8. A: What have you been up to since I saw you last?



9. A: What have you been doing of late?



10. A: When did this thing come up for the first time?



11. A: Will there be a big job of entertaining people when they come?



12. A: When is this do at your Institute?



13. A: It is terribly sweet of you to invite us for your birthday party.



14. A: Whats wrong with my explanation?



15. A: Good morning, Jones is here.



16. A: Mrs Shirley, from the ad I found out that you are going to let your cottage for the summer. Could you give me some information about it?



17. B: How many are you in your family?



18. A: I would like to see your house. When should I come?



19. A: How could I get to your house?



20. A: Can I get there some other way?



21. A:

B: How soon would you like to come?


V. Reproduce the telephone conversations as close to the text as possible.


VI. Make up telephone conversations considering these assignments.

1. You are going to rent a cottage at the seaside for a period of three summer months. In the advertisement section of a local paper you found a cottage which suits you. In a talk with the landlady find out: a) how far is the cottage from the beach; b) which is the best way to get there; c) what conveniencies are available in the house; d) what is the rent; e) when can you come to see the cottage.

2. Your wife and you go to the theatre for the Saturday night performance. Your neighbour kindly offers to be baby-sitting while you are at the theatre. In a telephone conversation thank her, tell her a few words about your son and give her some necessary advice.




code: a system of figures used to represent telephone numbers of the cities and countries which have been changed to all-figure numbers. A London all-figure number is 01-2222870. 01 is the code to be dialed if you make a call from telephones outside the London Area. But if you make a call in London you must dial only the last seven figures those after the hyphen.

For numbers in New York City dial: 0-01 212 followed by the last 7 digits of the number of the customer you require.


Complimentary Ticket


Ill see that you are paged in the restaurant. , .


hors-doeuvreorturtlesoup, soleoromelette, beeffilletorroastduckling , ,


7 for 7.30 7 7.30 ( )


BEA: BritishEuropeanAirways


economy class: second class


Heathrow: the biggest airport in London


West London Air Terminal: central passenger station that serves as a junction with other lines


whats playingAm.


Eugene ONeill (1888-1953): a prominent American playwright; Long Days Journey into Night


to have other fish to fry


Im brimming over with joy and happiness. .


free: unoccupied


Marsh speaking: the generally accepted formal way for a man to announce himself on the telephone is for him to use his surname only, omitting the title Mr. An alternative, perhaps slightly less formal, would be to use the Christian name as well, which is generally accepted in American English, e.g. This is James Marsh speaking.


a Mr Weston: the fact that the operator uses the indefinite article with the name indicates that she does not know the caller.


on the line: a standard phrase used by operators to refer to an incoming call


What can I do for you?: almost a fixed phrase, which is very often used as a polite way of asking someone what he wants




Splendid: an exclamation of approval which may sound to some people just a little too hearty or pompous


quick work: often used to refer to anything that has been done quickly, not simply a job or work; e.g. You made quick work of that ice-cream, where the implication is that ice-cream was eaten quickly.


youll be pleased to know: a fixed phrase which would be more appropriate in written English. It is one of the phrases which adds formality to this conversation, and would be unlikely in informal telephone conversations.




Youve taken a load off my mind: this phrase is colloquial, and is used by someone who has had a cause for worry or anxiety removed.


to hold things up: to delay proceedings ()


the outstanding work: work that has not yet been completed. Contrast the frequent use of outstanding to imply of outstanding merit, qualities, etc., as in He is an outstanding man in every way, She has done some outstanding work at school.


the plating and polishing shops


then you can have a free hand: the sense is that there will be complete freedom from any hindrance: the hands of the workmen will be free.


That brings us to Thursday morning: note that idiomatic use of bring in such sentences as That brings us to the next item to be discussed.


put it in hand: give instructions to have the job started, e.g. Ive got the job in hand, which means that the job is either being done, or is about to be started.


Im not keeping you from anything: the meaning here is Im not preventing you from doing anything else (by talking to you).


I do have: note the use of do here, making the verb emphatic. The effect of the emphasis is softened, however, by the following clause beginning with but.


at your disposal: prepared to carry on the conversation. A bit of business phraseology.


carry on: continue. Contrast the colloquial use to mean talk too much, make lengthy and tedious assertions, as in John is a nice chap, but he does carry on about his health.


outlet duct


think to inspect: more usually one would expect to find think of inspecting, but think may be followed by to plus the infinitive form of the verb instead of of plus present participle, as in I didnt think to tell him vs. I didnt think of telling him.


look, Mr Weston: note this rather informal use of the imperative look as a signal that the speaker wishes to call attention to a proposition or statement he is about to make.




Fine: an informal exclamation of approval or agreement


Not at all: one of the very few ways in English of replying to someone who has just said Thank you. For some people it has faintly comic overtones, and these are stronger with the comparable formula Dont mention it. Normally, no reply to Thank you is absolutely necessary, but many people feel happier if they say something like Thats all right, Pleased to help, Glad to be of assistance, etc.


get things moving: an informal way of saying order work to start


what with that and this: because of that and this


up to my ears in it: overloaded with work


round fortyish: around forty years old


a little bit heavy-going: rather too serious or pompous


got his head screwed on the right way: clever, intelligent


on hand: available


a bit short-handed: short of staff/workers


on the packing side: in the packing department


like the clappers: very quickly


havent got round to: havent managed to do/begin


a bit tricky: rather difficult


a spot of: a little


bung: put, throw


all laid on: all arranged


Im very well, thanks: a slightly formal reply to the question How are you? than either Tine, thanks or Oh, not so bad; you know.


Im afraid: a common conversational way of introducing an apologetic note into what is being said


there: in that respect


organise: note this colloquial use of organise to mean get, obtain (by means of some kind of planning); e.g. I feel hungry Im going to organise a sandwich for myself.


to do smth. the hard way: to have difficulties to overcome; e. g. The manager came up the hard way he started as an errand boy.


Great one for the open air: I have a strong liking for the open air. The phrase a great one for is sometimes used to indicate strong preferences, as in Jimmys a great one for football, etc. there often seems to be some humorous intent when the phrase is used.


our lot: our family


put up with: toletate. Note the difference of meaning with put up to mean accommodate, as in Theyll put up noisy kids in that hotel.


give Charles a ring: note the numerous verbs which have to do with making a telephone call. Some of these, beginning with the more formal and ending with the less formal ones are: Telephone X, Ring X, Give X a ring, Give X a tinckle.


a dead loss: someone or something completely useless


scrabbling: combines the notions of crawling in and scratching about in (, )


popping into: going into. The implication is that it would only be for a short time. Pop in is also used of an informal visit, e. g. If you happen to be passing just pop in and see me, please.


I know just how it is: a phrase used to express concern and sympathetic understanding


mum and dad: the speakers way of referrring to herself and her husband


keep half an eye on: pay some attention to


toogoodtobetrue: a fixedphrase ( , ; )


allowing for: taking into account


a lot to offer: a fixed phrase often used for referring to something which has a number of desirable features


I tell you what: a colloquial way of introducing a suggestion


from over the road: the equivalent in less idiomatic English would be who live on the other side of the road


pop around: pop into


what with the children and the holiday traffic: the sense here is that because of the children and the holiday traffic the length of the drive will be a problem. This use of what with to mean something like because of, in view of is quite common in conversational English; e.g. What with doing the housework and the shopping, I never have a moment to spare.


rattling on: colloquial for chattering


around: at home; around the house meaning in the house


only too glad: an expressive way of saying glad


Peatley two-seven-one: although more and more telephone exchanges in Britain are being converted to all-figure numbers, some are still identified by a name


Hows things: a colloquial variant of How are you


Croydon: a suburb of London


put me in with a chance: given me a chance


short-listed: placed on the short list of people who are selected from all the other applicants and given an interview.


for goodness sake: a mild exclamation often used to express varying degrees of exasperation


on the receiving end: in the position of receiving something


in the hot seat: a colloquial metaphor used of any uncomfortable situation


I shouldnt worry too much about it if I were you: this sentence, or something very much like it, is used so often in these circumstances that it amounts almost to a fixed phrase


with your qualifications: the sense is that there are unlikely to be many applicants with such good qualifications, rather than with the same qualifications


well see: well see eventually what happens. Often used as a way of expressing doubt about the


loaded: loaded with money a colloquialism


I dont know about: a standard phrase for expressing doubt about whatever it introduces


scope: opportunity


old Billings : a common informal way of referring to people, especially men. The adjective old does not necessarily carry its normal sense, and its use in this way often implies a measure of affection.


do anyone a bad turn: harm anyone


a stick-in-the-mud: someone lacking in enterprise and averse to change. It is a classic instance of the kind of English idiom which used, to be collected in phrase books; and it sounds rather odd and a little old-fashioned as so many phrase-book idioms do, probably because they are not used very much nowadays. The most famous of all is perhaps Its raining cats and dogs which no Englishman would ever be likely to say any longer unless he was trying to be funny.


move with the times: keep pace with current thinking. Another idiom that to some people might sound a little old-fashioned.


Too true: an emphatic way of agreeing


have a bash: have a try


Good for you: a common way of expressing approval of someones action


fed: gave


guff: a colloquialism for information, often used with the implication of irrelevance


lay it on too thick: exaggerate


go off: take a disliking to


cake walk it: the sense here is get the job easily. A cake walk is a simple undertaking.


keep my fingers crossed: the reference is to the traditional belief that crossing ones fingers is a way of guarding against bad luck


a bit of a bind: a nuisance


the moors: , (there are a great deal of open moorland in Yorkshire within easy reach of the large towns, and Sunday mornings walks there are popular)


steady on: a means of asking someone to be slower or more cautious in their behaviour or statements


pop out: go out


the Home Counties: the counties adjacent to London


turn in: go to bed


within reason: not beyond ones possibilities


to be up to something usually implies something not altogether permissible, or at least surreptitious. What have you been up to this time? implies something likely to involve punishment. So the phrase is used jocularly, from one friend to another, implying that he or she must have been doing something out of the ordinary or at least interesting.


Im afraid implies no fear, only regret that she has nothing more interesting to tell.


Just the usual grind is a way of describing monotony; nothing severe or otherwise unpleasant is implied.


come up: two idioms with come come up meaning to arise, to occur and come off meaning to take place


play hostess: play is often used as here to mean fulfil the function of.


this do at Turin : do, used as a noun, is one of the many colloquial words for a social occasion.


Well, look here is more emphatic than I say, to begin a new statement.


Why dont I come and look after: this is a more forceful phrase than Why shouldnt I?. It contains the hint of a firm offer which ought not to be refused.


demons: lively children are conventionally referred to as young demons a phrase conveying admiration for their vitality but at the same time sympathy for the trouble which they can cause.


get on means get on well together, like each other and are good companions.


sort it out with James: discuss this question with James


Ill come over simply means Ill come to you.


frig: refrigerator


Is this Mrs Jones?: Americans begin a telephone call by asking, Is this? whereas the English ask, Is that?


To call in British English more often means to come in person, though it can have the sense of calling up or ringing up on the telephone, which is always the American meaning.


to rent: houses in England are usually said to be to let. The distinction is that you let your house to someone, but you rent a house from someone.


right now: an English person would probably just say now or at the moment.


Closet is rarely used in England and would generally be taken to refer to water-closet.


Gosh!: an exclamation of extreme surprise


Date: 2015-02-16; view: 750

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