Checking and clarifying on the phone

Business English - Talking on the phone

Speaking on the phone can be more challenging than speaking face to face. You don’t always hear exactly what the other person said.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it’s important to check and be clear you understand correctly.

In our first video of 2018, Louise and Simon play Kate and Tony, two colleagues making a phone call.

The first part of the video shows what can happen when there is a misunderstanding on the phone. The second part shows you how to use a set of phrases for checking and clarifying to make sure you understand.


Video by Barney


Here are the checking and clarifying phrases they use in their phone call.

Sorry, Kate could you say that again, please?
Sorry, Tony. I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again, please?
Sorry, did you say ten thirty or two thirty?
Sorry. I can’t hear you , Kate. Can you speak up a little?


Was this useful for you? Watch our videos and download information about using the International Radio Alphabet to spell words over the phone.

UPDATE (24/03/2018) You can now test your knowledge of the checking and clarifying phrases with this interactive exercise.

If you have any questions about this video, leave a comment below.

Do you need to practise speaking English on the telephone? Send us a message.

Merry Christmas from Stratford Teachers

Stratford Teachers round hte Christmas tree

Merry Christmas to everybody from all of us at Stratford Teachers.

2017 has been a good year for us. As well as teaching hundreds of online lessons, we’ve also delivered face-to-face courses here in Stratford upon Avon, proof-read an academic thesis, and helped people in China to practise their English pronunciation.

Next year we will continue to provide our popular and flexible online lessons and adding to our blog. We are currently planning a new pronunciation course which wil combine online, face-to-face learning with specially designed videos and interactive exercises.

Is there anyway we can help you to improve your English? Contact us to talk about it.

Here’s a little Christmas present from us to you. Test your knowledge of English prepositions by decorating our Christmas tree .


Decorate the Christmas Tree

(Note this doesn’t work in Microsoft browsers. Please use another browser such as Firefox or Chrome.)

Linda, Simon, Barney, Joy, Louise & Stephen



Giving directions – interactive

Imagine this situation. You are visiting a friend. It is your first visit to this town. You want to send a package home but how do you find the post office?

You ask your friend for directions, of course.

Try our new interactive exercise and see if you can follow his directions to the post office.


Giving directions instructions


We are creating more and more interactive materials for our blog and to support our language courses. If there is a particular area of language you think we should focus on, please use the comment box below or contact us with your ideas.


Internet vocabulary – Interactive exercise

One of the most popular recent blog posts here has been the Internet vocabulary mind map.

People from all over the world have read the blog post and downloaded the mind map.

In response, we decided to create an interactive learning module using some of the vocabulary from the mind map.


Internet vocabulary interactive exercise

Louise and Simon helped Barney to test the module. In the process, they learned a lot more about the names of elements of a webpage and what those elements are used for.

So, if you need to learn the different between check boxes and radio buttons and to drag & drop and to hover, click on the red button below and try the interactive learning module.


We are creating more and more interactive materials for our blog and to support our language courses. If there is a particular area of language you think we should focus on, please use the comment box below or contact us with your ideas.


Naval-inspired idioms

Cutty Sark - Greenwich, London
Cutty Sark is a clipper ship, used to transport tea from China to Britain. She is on display in Greenwich, London.

During a recent trip with Linda to Greenwich in London (famous for Greenwich Mean Time, the Naval Academy and Royal Observatory), Joy discovered some interesting idioms connected to ships and the sea.

Exercise 1

First , can you match the idiom with its origin?

1) First-rate

2) All at sea

3) No room to swing a cat

4) To push the boat out

5) Show your true colours


a) Helping a seaman push a boat into the water was an act of generosity or kindness.

b) Naval ships sometimes used foreign flags to disguise their identity at sea. Just before a battle, ships would show their own flag (also known as colours).

c) A ship which carried at least 100 guns and was the largest and most powerful type of ship of the Navy.

d) Relates to the practice of whipping with a cat-o’-nine-tails (a kind of whip with several ‘tails’).

e) Early navigators could easily become lost when out of sight of land as it was hard to work out their exact position.



1 c  2 e  3 d  4 a  5 b


Royal Naval College - Greenwich, London
Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London

Exercise 2

Today, these idioms are no longer associated with ships and the sea.

Read these sentences and choose the correct modern meaning for the idiom.

1) Congratulations! You’ve done a first rate job setting up the new order system.

a) useful
b) high quality
c) quick

2) When I first started here, I felt all at sea, but everyone was so friendly I soon settled in.

a) confused
b) excited
c) unhappy

3) She’s just bought a flat in London, but considering it cost £250,000 there’s no room to swing a cat!

a) it’s luxurious
b) it’s very small
c) it’s expensive

4) Don’t worry about the cost – you only get married once – let’s push the boat out!

a) have a party on a boat
b) invite a lot of people
c) spend a lot of money

5) Although I’d met him before, it was only when we started working together that he showed his true colours.

a) saw his real personality
b) saw he was a nice person
c) saw he didn’t like me



1 b  2 a  3 b  4 c  5 a


Ship in a bottle in Greenwich, London
Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. On display outside the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

If you’ve never been to Greenwich, it’s definitely worth a visit – we met up with one of our ‘old’ students from Switzerland there. The National Maritime Museum has many fascinating exhibits, including Nelson’s uniform from the Battle of Trafalgar, with the hole made by the bullet that killed him!

If you have vistied Greenwich, we would love to hear about your experience. Leave a reply below.

Do you want to learn English idioms? Send us a message.



Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings.

The words but are easy to say but it’s important to know the spellings and meanings of the most common English homophones. Even native-speakers of English sometimes make mistakes in there their writing.

Test yourself with our interactive homophone quiz.


Homophones interactive quiz

Did you find this useful? We’re always interested to get feedback or suggestions so feel free to use the comment box below and send us a message.


Do you need to develop your spoken and written English? Contact us to talk about doing a  course.


Describing a product

WD external hard drive
How would you describe this product?

Does your company manufacture products? Do you have to talk to customers about those products?

How do you describe a product?

One way is to start with the questions that customer might ask about the product.

Watch our video. We ask and answer questions about a common piece of computer equipment. At the end we put the answers together to create a short, clear description of that product.

Now test yourself

Here’s information about another product. See if you can make a question for each piece of information and then write down the answers to create the product description. The answers are at the bottom of this page.


Steam iron

Product type steam iron
Dimensions 275mm x 117mm x 150mm, 550gms
 For use with silk, nylon, wool, cotton, linen
 Country of origin China
 Price €30



These are some suggested answers.

What’s this? It’s a steam iron.
What do you use it for? You use it to iron or press clothes.
How big is it? It’s 275mm long, 117mm wide and 150mm tall.
What does it weigh? It weighs 550 grams.
What materials can you use with it? You can use it with silk, nylon, wool, cotton and linen.
What’s it made of? It’s made of metal and plastic.
Where was it made? It was made in China.
How much does it cost? It costs €30.


How well did you do? Did you make any other questions and answers? Use the comment box and share them with us.

Do you need to expand your business English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.