Recently, I was talking on a phone which had a faulty connection, as a result of which I was only able to hear the person's voice in patches. Something like "......I think.........may.......jaguar....study.." (where "..." represents things which he said that I was not able to hear). I tried:

I can hear you only in patches

That sounds awkward. How do I say this to him in a natural way?

3 Answers 3


You could say this:

I'm sorry I can't hear you. You're breaking up!

From Macmillan Dictionary:

break up
5 [intransitive] if the sound on a radio or mobile phone breaks up, you can no longer hear the person who is speaking on it.
I can't hear you, you're breaking up.


There are various ways of conveying difficulty in hearing a caller:

You're breaking up, it's really difficult to hear you
This is a really bad connection, could you please call back
It's really difficult to hear you, could we try again
You sound very spotty, could you call again

Breaking up is a hold over from radio usage days, it can be used for both mobile and landlines.

Usually the caller is asked to call back and hopefully a better connection is made.
When appropriate, the caller may ask if it's possible to recall on a landline, or the callee may offer a landline to call on.

In extreme circumstances

I can't hear you, can you hear me?

is used and after a few moments the call is automatically ended with reattempts by the caller, or by either side if they know each other.

  • 1
    +1 In addition: your voice or your phone or my phone keeps cutting in and out. Example for voice cuts out.
    – GoDucks
    Dec 25, 2015 at 15:19
  • @GoDucks If you posted that as an answer, I would upvote it. Dec 25, 2015 at 22:24

Whether the signal is bad due to crosstalk, lost packets, or delayed packets, you can say that the message or sentence is garbled:

gar·ble (gär′bəl)

  1. To mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible: The report garbled all the historical facts.
  2. To scramble (a signal or message), as by erroneous encoding or faulty transmission.

Note that garbled describes the message that was received, not the connection.

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