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¿A Donde Hablo? vs ¿Quien Habla?

Spanish Pinpointed

The phone rings when you weren’t expecting a call, so you pick up the receiver and mumble the usual “bueno” into the mouthpiece.

¿A dónde hablo? (where am I calling?) comes a sharp, testy voice.

The easiest way to clear up wrong numbers is to say where the person has called, but usually you don’t want to do that. Instead you respond: ¿Quién habla? (Who’s calling?).

A gentler version of this is ¿Con quién quería hablar? (Who did you want to speak to?), but not necessarily in keeping with local telephone etiquette.

The ensuing conversation can become quite a battle of wills — “no, you tell me” — and frequently ends with both parties hanging up and shaking their heads in incredulity at some people’s lack of manners.

The exchanges can also become the subject of those “I said, he said” monologues, including a description of how the “victim” came up with the perfect put-down for the “offender.”

The problem with all this is that it may not be a wrong number. It could be someone you know who didn’t recognize your voice over the phone, and vice-versa—possibly even one of your in-laws.

See Also: Learn Spanish

1 Comment

  1. B.Buckman says

    In my part of Mexico the terse question from the caller is ‘Quien habla?’. I’ve never understood why the called party is expected to give his name, shouldn’t that be the caller’s responsibility? As an American I have learned to be careful about identifying oneself too quickly, lots of phone scams in both countries. My retort has always been ‘Quien busca?’, it hasn’t gone over very well and really confounds the caller which leads to even more dumb exchanges. I’m going to try to use “¿Con Quién Quería Hablar? as per the article, less confrontational and maybe less confusing, for the caller that is.

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