Phone call grammar
August 23, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

If I am on the phone with an unknown person, I usually say "whom an I speaking with?" to get the callers name. It doesn't seem to roll of the tongue very nicely though. What is the best way to get a callers name in today's world?
posted by kapu to Writing & Language (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
"And your name is ...?
posted by eleslie at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


try doing away with "whom" and use "who" (and replace that "an" with "am" :-) )

"who am I speaking to, please" less of a tongue stumbler.

Or try,

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
posted by HuronBob at 8:42 AM on August 23, 2009


"With whom am I speaking?" seems to work for me.
posted by birdherder at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


The correct version of the formal way you're doing it is: "With whom am I speaking?" But there are less formal ways to get the same result, as pointed out above.
posted by amyms at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2009


I usually say, "Can I ask who's calling?", although technically I guess it is very wrong to say, as it should be "May..", and even then the correct answer would be "Yes", giving me permission to say, "Who is calling?"... But still. It works for me!
posted by lukeo05 at 8:48 AM on August 23, 2009


I might use, "May I ask who's calling?" but I'll be honest and say I don't usually pick up unless it's someone I know. ;)

I do use it at work, though.
posted by miratime at 8:48 AM on August 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


"May I ask who's calling" is the state of the art response for this situation.
posted by jayder at 8:51 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I say "Can I get your name?"
posted by raf at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2009


Being too formal can sometimes come across as sounding haughty. I usually say "I'm sorry, who is this?" or "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name," which, to my ear, gives some benefit of the doubt to the point that maybe they think you should know who it is, or (as sometimes happens) they said their name earlier but I didn't quite catch it. If the call is for someone else, I'll say "Can I tell him/her who's calling, please?"

(Note: do not say "WHODIS?!")
posted by The Deej at 8:55 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"And you are...?"

or

"Who's calling, please?"
posted by scratch at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2009


"Who is this?" said with impatience and authority. With all the random jerks imposing on your time and plugging into your coms, you needn't pussyfoot.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]



Being too formal can sometimes come across as sounding haughty.

Which can actually be a good thing if the only people who ever call your house phone/landline are telemarketers.
posted by scratch at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2009


If I am on the phone with an unknown person, I usually say "whom an I speaking with?"

"Who's calling please?"

That said, I often think of this as a tool of telemarketers as well, to get a personal name of someone in the office/workplace that they can address a personal-sounding piece of junk mail to, or to make the conversation get all weird "So, JESSAMYN, have you thought about your office strategy for toner ink replaement?".

So, if you're picking up the phone at home and trying to figure out who is calling, something simple and direct is fine. If you're trying to ferret out the name of the person you have called, I think it's a little more dependent on why you've called, to figure out the appropriate way to ask.
posted by jessamyn at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Who is that?" The mannerly way to initiate a phone call is to say "This is jet_silver, may I speak with Fred?". If the first words out of the caller's mouth are not his or her name then I ask pretty abruptly. No prompt response - no continuation of the call.
posted by jet_silver at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who's calling, please?
posted by chez shoes at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2009


Sorry, who is this?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2009


I just say "And who is this?" more or less politely or brusquely depending on the situation.
posted by frobozz at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2009


Hoozdis?
or
Wadjawan?

While technically questions, there is no rise at the end, and accent is on the first syllable.
posted by hexatron at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a "who's calling, please?" person, because "with whom am I speaking?" is hard for folks whose first language is not English to follow. "Who is this speaking?" is my followup if "who's calling, please?" doesn't elicit an answer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2009


"May I ask who is calling?"

This comes off as friendly but pretty much no nonsense.

**You'll need to be identifying yourself here, or the call goes no further, but see how I asked you nicely?**
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2009


I'll add another vote to "may I ask who's calling?"
posted by brainmouse at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2009


I've always used "May I know who's calling?"

Seems appropriately polite no matter who's on the other end.
posted by Lush at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2009


"Whom am I speaking with" doesn't roll of the tongue nicely because it's ungrammatical. Personally, I go with "Who's calling, please?"
posted by sinfony at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2009


If at work: "May I ask who's calling?"

If on my cell phone: "Who this ninja?" If the caller seems confused, I simply repeat "Who this ninja?" a little more slowly and loudly.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I guess it depends on why you're answering the phone. When I used to answer the company's main line and take calls from people who knew the boss really well and thought I was a peon in their way, "May I ask who's calling?" or "Who shall I tell her is calling?"

Now that I just have a direct line, "Who is this?" is all they get. "May I ask..." seems like I'm practically apologizing for asking who they are. My new greeting may border on being rude, but really, if you're calling me and not introducing yourself, you're the one being rude.

(As with responding to my initial "Hello?" when I pick up, they have a very narrow margin of time to answer before I hang up.)
posted by fogster at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2009


I usually say "whom an I speaking with?"

The correct version of the formal way you're doing it is: "With whom am I speaking?"

No, both versions are grammatically correct. There is no rule stating you can not end a sentence with a preposition. It's merely a shibboleth.

Having said that, I usually say something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, what was your name again?"
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2009


I'd go for some variation of "who is calling" rather than "can I ask who is calling". The first is a direct question, while the second is asking if you can ask.
posted by Solomon at 12:02 PM on August 23, 2009


I usually just say "May I ask who's calling, please?"
posted by majikstreet at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2009


"May I ask who's speaking?"
posted by sunshinesky at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2009


Another "vote" for "May I ask who's calling?"
posted by ishotjr at 12:49 PM on August 23, 2009


"May I ask who's calling?" or "May I ask who's speaking?" is what I was taught.
posted by joshrholloway at 2:34 PM on August 23, 2009


I'd go with "May I ask who's calling (please)?" although that still sounds a bit stuffy.

Or "Can I get your name please?" For some reason, "May I get your name," while more polite, just sounds weird.

Whatever you pick, I'm sure the caller won't be fuming on the other end going, "I can't believe he/she asked for my name in such a casual and informal manner!"

As long as it's not "Who're you?!" I'd be more concerned with finding out the name without tripping on my tongue and making the caller feel like they're dealing with a panicky unprofessional pinhead.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2009


I'm a fan of "May I ask who's calling, please?", but will also use "May I ask your name, please?" if I'm calling them (or have been shunted on to them by someone else). I get a bit tongue-tied on the phone when I'm trying to be professional while simultaneously searching for words, and have had a good few jobs where formal-ish calls are common, so I try to keep it simple and in keeping with the way I speak - if I tripped over any bit of it, I'd change the phrase.

The tone is super, super important. "With whom am I speaking?" is spectacularly cold and belittling if delivered right, in the same way that "who's this?" could be totally fine if the person is friendly and helpful. It's definitely not just about what you say so much as how you say it.
posted by carbide at 3:41 PM on August 23, 2009


"Can I get your name?" is what rolls off my tongue, and I suspect would roll off of yours too, since you asked "What is the best way to get a callers name in today's world?"
posted by selfmedicating at 4:53 PM on August 23, 2009


"Who are you?"
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:08 PM on August 23, 2009


I'll sometimes use "what fresh hell is this?" if I suspect it's a telemarketer. If I think it's a legitimate business call, I ask " May I ask who is calling?"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:55 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uber pet peeve:

(ring)

"Hey, Liquado, how are you?"

My response?

"Good -- Who am I talking to?"

Friendly, casual, clear and to the point. I used to get really stressed when I had someone call me and I didn't know who it was; this line helped me become de-Nancified.
posted by liquado at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2009


The first thing I say on answering the phone is simply my last name. The second thing I say (if I don't know who's calling me) is "I'm sorry; who's calling, please?"
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 7:40 PM on August 23, 2009


Whenever someone calls and doesn't identify him or herself first, I simply ask "Who is this?" Quick, straight to the point. You don't need to be overly formal.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:03 PM on August 23, 2009


I try to steer clear of the apologies. You should know who you are talking to for clarity's sake; there's no reason to feel like you're being rude, and thus need to apologize. If I feel like being formal (and if I lapse into my receptionist days) I'll say "To whom am I speaking?" which looks really awkward to say, and for some people probably is, but I guess I practiced it a lot. Usually now I ask "Who's calling?" (with a "please" thrown in if I'm feeling really polite).
That said, I usually don't pay attention when someone volunteers their name before I ask for it. So I'm stuck in a conversation with a person who offered their name, and I don't remember it. I have to bite the bullet and ask directly, "Sorry, I didn't catch your name." I always feel inexplicable uncomfortable in this situation, like I'm a total jerk for not taking copious notes as soon as I pick up the phone.
posted by purpletangerine at 9:54 AM on August 24, 2009


I spent years answering phones as a personal assistant and found that "Who's calling, please?" was simple and effective. I still do it at home. I use a light, professional tone to soften the abruptness of the question without apologizing for asking it.
posted by swerve at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2009


« Older Can you help me translate my soup instructions so...   |   Movie in which thieves sync their heist with songs... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.