In the dictionary, pick the phone means to answer a phone

For example, The phone rang and rang and nobody picked up.

So is "take a call" which means to answer one

For example, Monica took the call upstairs.

I have been watching a lot of English/American films and it seems that most people will say "Sorry, I have to take this" when their phones are ringing.

Are "I have to take this call" and "I have to pick up the phone" the same?

When do we say "I have to take this call" and "I have to pick up the phone"?

Also, is "this/the call" in "I'll take this/the call" refer to the call of the one who called or the receiver?

For example, suppose Tom (a he) is calling Mary (a she). Now Mary's phone is ringing.

Is it correct for Mary to say "I have to take his call" or "I have to take my call"?

Note: Some people say that "pick up the phone" is outdated because we are now in the smartphone era and people prefer to say "take this call". Maybe, in the past, they say "pick up the phone" more.

  • If someone says I have to take this call the strong implication is they know who's calling, and what it's about. And they've already decided that dealing with the call is more important than talking to you. But if they say I have to pick up the phone (a rather "peculiar" thing to say), we've no idea why they said it. Maybe the speaker has some kind of neurosis that obliges him to always answer his phone. Who knows? All we know is he doesn't think talking to you is important by comparison. Jan 14, 2023 at 17:30
  • You can say my call or his call, but you probably wouldn't use the latter in many business contexts, because you wouldn't tell your visitor who's on the line just so as to make it obvious that person is more important than you, even though you're there in person! Jan 14, 2023 at 17:32
  • Why vote down?? This is a good question in the learners' point of views? Something is obvious to native speakers might not be so to learners.
    – Tom
    Jan 14, 2023 at 17:40
  • It's (or used to be) pick up the phone. Still relevant for the ever-dwindling number of landline phone owners.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14, 2023 at 18:18
  • In response to your edit: Certainly in the past people said pick up the phone more often. Jan 15, 2023 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


I think pick up the phone relates to the older type of telephone, where you answered the call by lifting the receiver off the cradle, and you didn't know who was on the other end (unless you were expecting a call).

People say "I have to take this call" when referring to a mobile phone (cell phone). You usually know who is calling and therefore whether the message is likely to be important. If Tom is calling, it's his call (originated by him).

  • So, your answer implies that in the past with desk phones, people say "pick up the phone" more right?
    – Tom
    Jan 14, 2023 at 17:35
  • 1
    Pick up was more appropriate when talking about a desk or wall phone, yes. Jan 14, 2023 at 17:37

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