What's the proper way to reference somebody who're you talking with by a peer-to-peer phone line, usually if you don't know who's there exactly?

Russian language, for example, has the idiom

(они) на другом конца провода

which is literally

(they, who appear to be) on the other end of the [phone] wire

Note that it is in plural and it can be used even for wireless (i.e. cell) phones. What is the proper way to say that in English? I've stumbled a couple of times to usage "(at/on) the other end", "(at/on) the other side" in some texts, but I'm not sure that they're authentic, correct and relate to precisely what I'm talking about. I've checked the dictionaries, but I couldn't find anything relevant.

Possibly related, but still doesn't give the exact answer on telephone line specific case:

Definitely not related:

3 Answers 3


A common idea among native English speakers is that a conversation over a distance has "ends," with each participant at one end of the connection. I would bet that this way of thinking came along with the advent of the telephone (although I can't substantiate that at this time).

As a result, someone with whom you are communicating by phone or email would be described as "the person on the other end."

Similarly, a nice thing to ask in a conversation with your friend could be, "How are things on your end, Bill?" which is pretty much the same as "How are you doing?"

  • It may be worth noting that a conversation can have any number of "ends," such as when you are on a conference call or multi-party email. Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 17:02

In British English, at least, it would be on the other end (of the line).


"On the other side" suggests that you and the other party are in two different territories, separated by a border or barrier. "On the other end" connotes a real or virtual line or conduit that stretches between you and the other party, such as a road or a network connection. Because the latter is a much better description of a telephone call than the former is, we say "on the other end."

  • 1
    And even if you're video-chatting -- where the interface (the screen) is much more similar to a vertical barrier than with a traditional phone -- one would still say "on the other end".
    – dg99
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 21:00

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