PHONE THOUGHTS – Can’t get by without Phrasal Verbs

Phone Thoughts

Hook up/ Hooked up:

to be connected to a machine, an electronic device or the internet.


We still say that the phone was ringing off the hook. When was the last time you used a phone with a hook?

I remember when I was a kid we used to have a phone on the wall and that it had a hook that the receiver hung on. If you picked up the receiver, the hook would move up and would engage the dial tone. If you put the phone on the hook, it would move down and would disengage the phone.

Let’s not be in a rush to change the terminology, though. I still like it. We still say we dial the phone, right? When was the last time you used a phone with a dial?

What other old phone terms do we still use?

–  Phones ring but no longer contain actual bells like in the old days.
–  We hang up the phone even though we normally don’t really hang it anywhere. We normally put it down somewhere, not up.


All telephones have a microphone to speak into, an earphone which reproduces the voice of the other person, a ringer or a buzz which makes an alert sound to when a call is coming in, and a keypad or in older phones a telephone dial to enter the telephone number of the telephone being called.


Old telephones have become very peculiar and fascinating. Many people have found these to be interesting to collect as antiques, being telephones invented in 1876.

In order to improve your telephone skills, you should learn some phrasal verbs
that are commonly used in telephone conversations.


Hold on and hang on means ‘wait’ . But don’t  confuse hang on with hang up!

Hang up means ‘put the phone down’ (the conversation is finished).

Another phrasal verb with the same meaning as hang up is ring off.

The opposite of hang up / ring off is ring up – to ring somebody up, means you are making a phone call.  And if you pick up the phone, (or pick the phone up) you answer a call when the phone rings.

“Hang on a second…”

If you are talking to a receptionist, secretary or switchboard operator, they may ask you to hang on while they put you through

Put through means to connect your call to another telephone. With this verb, the object (you, me, him, her etc.) goes in the middle of the verb: put you through.

But if you can’t get through to the person you want to talk to, you might be able to leave a message asking them to call you back.

Call back means to return a phone call – and if you use an object (you, me, him, her etc.), it goes in the middle of the verb: call you back.

Mobile or cell phones, give you the possibility “to text somebody”

To text back somebody (or text somebody back) is to send a text message in reply to someone who has sent you a text message.

Example:        I sent Peter a message about the trip, but he hasn’t texted back yet.

Using a telephone (verbs, nouns and phrasal verbs)

answer – verb  : pick up the phone when it rings

busy  or engaged – adjective

if someone’s telephone is busy, it is being used when you try to call

call – verb : to telephone someone

call back : to telephone someone who telephoned you earlier

call in or ring in :

to telephone the place where you work and say where you are or what you are doing

call in sick :

to telephone the place where you work and say you will not come to work because you are ill

call up or ring up : to telephone someone

caller – noun : someone who makes a telephone call

cut off : if someone or something cuts you off when you are talking on the telephone

dial – verb : to press the buttons, or to turn the dial, on a telephone in order to call someone

disconnect – verb : to stop the telephone connection between two people or computers

get through : to be connected to a place by telephone

hang up or ring off : to stop using a telephone at the end of a conversation

hold – verb :

to wait in order to speak to someone on the telephone. You can also say that you hold the line or to be on hold

jam – verb :

if a telephone system jams or is jammed, it stops working because too many people are making calls at the same time

jammed – adjective :

a jammed telephone system does not work because too many people are making calls at the same time

look up

– Consult a reference work (dictionary, phonebook, etc.) for a specific piece of information.

misdial – verb : to dial a wrong number when making a telephone call

phone – verb : to use a telephone to call someone

phone back or ring back :

to phone someone who phoned you earlier when you were away or were too busy to speak to them

phone in or ring in : to telephone the place where you work in order to give a message

phone round or ring around : to phone several people to arrange something or to get information

phone through : to give someone a particular piece of information using the phone

put down : to put the telephone receiver back onto its base after you have finished talking to someone

put the phone down on someone : to end a telephone conversation with someone before they have finished speaking

put on : to pass the telephone to someone so they can speak to the person you have been talking to

put through :

to connect someone to the person they want to speak to on the telephone

queue – noun :

a number of people who have telephoned a place at the same time and are waiting to speak to an operator

redial –verb :

to press one or more buttons on a phone for a second time when you are trying to phone someone

ring –verb : to call someone by telephone

give someone a bell

to phone someone

give someone a buzz

to phone someone

give someone a ring

make a (phone) call

ring – verb : the sound a telephone makes to show that someone is calling

ring through : to phone from one part of a building to another

speak – verb : to speak to someone on the telephone

telephone – verb : to speak to someone using the telephone

telephonist – noun :

someone who works for a business or organization answering the telephone and directing calls to the right people

telephony – noun : the system, technology, or business of telephone communication

transfer – verb : to let someone speak to another person by changing telephone lines for them

call someone collect : to make a phone call that is paid for by the person who receives the call.

off the hook : if a telephone is off the hook, the receiver (=the part you speak into) has not been put into its place, and so you cannot receive any calls

call waiting – noun

When speaking with someone on the phone, a signal alerts you that you have another call waiting, allowing you to switch between the two.

Three-way calling – noun Talking with people at two different phone numbers at the same time, as a conference call.


A phone conversation

“Hi, John. I’ve been trying to look up Jenny’s number, but I can’t find it. She’s wanted to hook up with me, and I want to ask her out. Do you have her number?”


Watch out for Jenny. I went out with her for a while. She seemed cool, would dress up nice and drop by once in a while, we’d go out, maybe go over to a friend’s house or eat out. Then for no reason one day she just blew up at me. I told her to calm down and just like that she broke up with me. She ran out the door and I tried to catch up with her but she was too fast for me. Look out for her, she can wig out with no heads up.”


“Maybe you guys just grew apart; it happens, you know. Maybe if you had hung in there with her, you could have figured out why she was mad at you and made it up to her. You could have worked it out.


“Yeah, well, she was hard to hold onto. I felt like I always had to look after her because she could mess up her life with her weird moves. I told her if she kept it up she was going to get into trouble. I thought she looked up to me, especially when I pointed out how much I cared about her, but she would just make up excuses and set herself up for more trouble. I was afraid I was going to start taking after her because I really cared a lot about her.


“For instance, this one time we were walking and we ran into someone she knew. As soon as the person saw Jenny, it was like a switch went on. She started running away! I asked her what that was all about, and she told me to stick to my own business. When I think back at how she would go off on people for no reason, I should have not let her sleep over any more or get myself mixed up in her messes.”
“I hear you, bro. Thanks for the heads up. I think I’ll give up on the idea!”



Match the phrasal words with their meanings

(some phrasal verbs have even other meanings)

  1. Hook up                                  ____eat at a restaurant
  2. Ask out                                   ____be careful
  3. Watch out                              ____preserve, not give up
  4. Go out with                           ____respect
  5. Go over to                             ____go on a journey/ go to someone’s house
  6. Eat out                                    ____meet someone
  7. Blow up                                  ____invent a story
  8. Break up                                ____restrict or limit / stay on a task
  9. Give up on                            ____continue, not quit
  10. Calm down                            ____to reach
  11. Catch up with                      ____look like, resemble
  12. Look out                                ____invite someone for a date
  13. Look up to                            ____have a relationship with
  14. Wig out                                  ____continue
  15. Hang in there                      ____be careful (imperative)
  16. Hold onto                            ____spend the night at someone else’s house
  17. Grow apart                          ____meet by accident
  18. Go off                                     ____dress very smartly
  19. Figure out                            ____pay a brief visit
  20. Make it up to                       ____make someone aware of something
  21. Make up                                ____explode /become livid
  22. Mix up                                   ____stop feeling hope/surrender, stop trying
  23. Set up                                     ____keep as long as possible
  24. Go on                                      ____become excited and lose control
  25. Take after                             ____stop being angry or emotionally excited
  26. Keep up at                            ____finish a relationship
  27. Point out                               ____try to compensate for doing something wrong
  28. Run into                                 ____become distant, stop having a close relationshi
  29. Run away                               ____prepare / get ready
  30. Stick to                                    ____confuse
  31. Sleep over                              ____escape
  32. Drop by                                   ____find the answer to a problem
  33. Dress up                                  ____start to dislike / get mad