Normally, we hang up the phone after we already establish a connection and might have a conversation with the person at the other end.

Say, I have a mobile and I am trying to establish a connection but the person at the other end doesn't pick up or his phone is engaged/busy. And then I press the "End" button.

In that case, do we say "turn off the phone" or "hang up the phone" ?

  • 1
    Don't say turn off the phone since this indicates a phone literally being turned off (As in the power off button for a phone) Hang up the phone is correct as hang up means to end a call. Oct 15, 2021 at 6:44

2 Answers 2


In an old style phone the main part of the phone was mounted on the wall and there was a separate part, connected to the phone by a cable, which hung on a curved Y-shaped lever. To make a call or answer a call you picked up the separate part and a spring lifted the lever and changed the connections inside the phone. To end the call you hung this part back up so its weight would return the phone to the waiting state.

Hence "hang up" the phone and "pick up" (answer) the phone.

There was no equivalent to switching the phone off unless you unplugged it, as its electricity supply came along the phone line.

To hang up a phone therefore means to end a call, whether you have had a conversation or even if the other phone has not yet been answered.

To switch off the phone is to turn it completely off. This would end a conversation, but it is not usually used for this purpose, partly because many mobile phones require you to hold the power button for several seconds and then confirm that you wish to turn the phone off.


We turn off a mobile or cell phone when the use of mobiles is expressly forbidden; e.g. in the theatre, in an exam, and if we want to save power because the battery is low.

However, when a conversation finishes abruptly, perhaps due to an argument, then it's possible to say "They hung up on me" or I hung up on them.

hang up

If you hang up or you hang up the phone, you end a phone call. If you hang up on someone you are speaking to on the phone, you end the phone call suddenly and unexpectedly.

  • Mum hung up the phone.
  • Don't hang up!
  • He said he'd call again, and hung up on me.
  • If anyone is wondering: "hang up" comes from the distant past where you would literally hang the phone up on the wall.
    – user253751
    Oct 15, 2021 at 10:33

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