Il Telefono Posted by on Jul 20, 2010 in Italian Language

Il telefono, for some a lifeline, for others a necessary evil. It’s good to be in touch, but sometimes ‘ti viene la voglia di buttarlo dalla finestra!’ (you feel like throwing it out of the window!) Here is a bit of useful telephone vocabulary:

telefonare a qualcunodare un colpo di telefono a qualcuno
chiamare qualcuno
dare uno squillo a qualcuno

rispondere al telefono

il telefonino / il cellulare

il ricevitore

la segreteria telefonica

una scheda telefonica

l’elenco telefonico

le pagine gialle

una cabina telefonica

il prefisso

il numero

sbagliare numero

la linea



to phone someoneto give someone a quick ring
to call someone
to give someone a ring

to answer the phone

the mobile phone / the cell phone

the receiver

the answering machine

a phone card

the telephone directory

the Yellow Pages

a phone box

the dialing code

the number

to dial the wrong number

the line


out of order

Notice that telefonare (to phone) is followed by the preposition a, and chiamare (to call) is followed by the direct object, e.g.:

Giorgio: Hai telefonato a Marco? Lucia: Sì, gli ho telefonato (Giorgio: Have you phoned Marco? Lucia: Yes, I’ve phoned him);

Giorgio: Hai telefonato a tua madre? Lucia: Sì, le ho telefonato (Giorgio: have you phoned your mother? Lucia: Yes, I’ve phoned her).

Giorgio: Hai chiamato Marco? Lucia: Sì, l’ho chiamato (Giorgio: Have you called Marco? Lucia: Yes, I’ve called him).

Giorgio: Hai chiamato tua madre? Lucia: Sì, l’ho chiamata (Giorgio: Have you called your mother? Lucia: Yes, I’ve called her).

Now a few examples of typical phrases and expressions that we use when we speak on the phone:

Il telefono sta suonando/squillando The phone’s ringing
Pronto, chi parla? Hello, who’s speaking?
Pronto, sono Giorgio Hello, it’s Giorgio
Vorrei parlare con Lucia. I’d like to speak to Lucia.
Un attimo che te la / gliela chiamo*. Hold on a moment, I’ll call her for you.
Sì, te la / gliela passo subito Yes, I’ll pass her to you straight away
Sì, un attimo, chi lo/la disidera? Yes, one moment, who wants to speak with him/her?
C’è Maria per favore? Is Maria there please?
Mi dispiace, non c’è. I’m sorry, he/she’s not in.
Vuole lasciare detto qualcosa? Would you like to live a message?
Vuoi che le/gli dica qualcosa? Do you want me to give her/him a message?
Mi scusi, ho sbagliato numero Sorry, I’ve dialed the wrong number
Mi dispiace, ha sbagliato numero I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong number

* te la chiamo I’ll call her for you (informal), gliela chiamo I’ll call her for you (polite).

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  1. Michael:

    I think sbagliare numero just means wrong number, not to dial the wrong number.

    • serena:

      @Michael Salve Michael,

      Sbagliare is an infinitive and means ‘to make a mistake’, or ‘get something wrong’. Therefore ‘sbagliare numero’ means ‘to mistake the number’, or ‘to get the number wrong’, which translated more correctly into English would be ‘to dial the wrong number’, exactly as I wrote in my blog. ‘Wrong number’ on the other hand, is ‘numero sbagliato’.

      Quindi, la tua risposta è sbagliata.


  2. Jeannet:

    Buongiorno Serena,
    after the morning routine
    ‘caffè’ !

    Questo blog ‘telefono’ is very useful indeed
    when stumbling ‘qualcose’ on the phone not knowing exactly how to deal in an first approach…
    Mille grazie.


  3. Gabi:

    Serena, Grazie tanto per le vocabole nuove!!!
    Tanti Saluti da Londra,
    Gabi :o)

  4. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    In my Donna Leon mysteries (they all take place in Venice) she always uses the word ‘telefonino’. I assume this is a cell phone. Is there a special set of terms for using the cell phone?


    • serena:

      @Vince Mooney Salve Vince, scusa per il ritardo. ‘Telefonino’ and ‘cellulare’ are the same object, and they are both commonly used. ‘Cell.’ is the abbreviation used on visiting cards to distinguish it from ‘Tel.’ which is used for the landline. Also, when filling in a form, etc. they will ask you for ‘cellulare’, again, in order to avoid any confusion with ‘telefono’.
      Yes, there are some technical terms for the ‘telefonino’ such as ‘fare una ricarica’ which means ‘to top up’, and ‘traffico residuo’ which is the amount of money left. However, I’m not an expert on cellulari e messaggini (text messages), sorry.

      Saluti da Serena

  5. Robin:

    Hi Serena
    A comment/question on an old post: is there a standard way of saying a telephone number in Italy? I’ve found forums that say not, but I still wondered. E.g. in England we say 0 2 0 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 but in France they would say +33 01 34 56 65. Grazie.

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