The two most important verbs we use on conference calls

(Para português, clique aqui)

In the era of internet, we have an increasing number of business people touching base with partners and clients on conference calls. It may be quite simple, but a lot of the times we use language incorrectly to refer to connection problems. Here's how to correctly address problems with audio and video whilst partaking a teleconference:


Most certainly the most important component in a call. Two tips:

1. Don't use the verb "to listen"

Not listening

Listening has to do with consciously paying attention to something. Hearing, on the other hand, is a physical thing which relies on how good one's ears, equipment and connectional. Saying you are not listening means you are not paying attention, which doesn't necessarily mean there is a problem in the connection.

The correct verb is "to hear".

2. Don't say: I'm not hearing you

The correct way to talk about the problem should be: "I can't hear you." 

Tip: verbs that describe our perception of the world and senses like see, hear, and smell are not commonly used in present continuous form (like we do in Spanish and Portuguese). If we are facing a temporary difficulty to express a perception fully, what we do in English is use "can't".

Therefore, if a participant has audio problems, say: 

"I can't hear you."

can't hear


The second most important thing in a teleconference  is video quality. Two tips:

1. Don't use: watch, view, or look. 

Similarly to listen, the verbs watch, view and look imply paying attention to something of someone. When you watch view or look at something you consciously choose to direct your sight at that. Saying we are not watching, viewing or looking might make it sound like we are not paying attention to the conversation. 

See, on the other hand, is physical perception and, therefore, it is also a stative verb. When we face some form of physical difficulty with/impediment to perceive what's on a video, we say:

"I can't see you."

can't see

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