Business English Phone-Absence Response


Learn about phrases that are often used in the "absent response" scene when answering an English phone call.


Minami Aoyama who works for ABC Co., Ltd.
One afternoon, when I answered the incoming call, the other person spoke English.

The other party wants Smith to replace him, but Smith seems to be a little out of his seat. As Mr. Aoyama's reply in this case, please select the most suitable one from A to D.

  • A.I am sorry, but Mr. Smith is in the restroom.
  • B.I am sorry, but Mr. Smith is having a break right now.
  • C.I am sorry, but Mr. Smith is away from his desk at the moment.
  • D.I am sorry, but Mr. Smith is too busy to talk to you.

Correct answer C

The translation is "Sorry. Smith is currently out of the seat", which is a general response in this case. Please note that "seat" is used in Japanese, but "desk" is used instead of "seat" in English as the expression for "seat".

Following C's answer, it's a good idea to check if you need to keep your message as follows.
  • Would you like to leave a message?
  • Could I take a message?

Explanation of other options

If you're just out of your seat, you don't have to give a specific reason.

  • A: This information, even if it is, does not need to be communicated in general.
  • B: It is not necessary to tell the recipient that it is a break, as it may give an unpleasant impression to the recipient depending on the situation and time of day.
  • D: It's common on a daily basis that your work is busy and it's difficult to answer the phone, but you don't have to tell the other person about that situation.

Let's Practice! Learn different Closing

There are various reasons why the person who handles the call is absent.
Here, we will introduce some expressions, so please use them as needed.

The other party on the phone
: Could I speak with [person in charge], please?
: I am sorry, but [person in charge] (A)
Could I take a message?
[Sentence example of (A)]
  • ~ is out at the moment.
  • ~ is at a meeting until 5:00. (~ is a meeting until 5:00)
  • ~ is on another line at the moment.
  • ~ is not in the office today.
The other party on the phone
: Yes. Could you please ask him / her to call me later?