Interrupting in English

Interrupting a discussion can seem impolite, but is often necessary for a number of reasons. For example, you might interrupt a conversation to:

  • Give a message to someone
  • Ask a quick question that has nothing to do with the conversation
  • Give your opinion about something that has been said
  • Interrupt to join the conversation

Here are forms and phrases used to interrupt conversations and meetings arranged by purpose.

Interrupting to Give Someone Information
Use these short forms to quickly and efficiently interrupt a conversation to deliver a message.

  • I’m sorry to interrupt but you’re needed (on the phone / in the office / in the classroom / etc.)
  • Sorry for the interruption. It’s Jim / Peter / Mary on the phone.
  • Pardon me, but I have John on the phone.
  • Excuse me, could I get a signature / an answer / a cup of coffee quickly?

Interrupting to Ask a Quick Unrelated Question
At times we need to interrupt to ask an unrelated question. These short phrases quickly interrupt to ask for something else.

  • I’m sorry to interrupt, but this will only take a minute.
  • Sorry for the interruption, but could you (answer a quick question / help me for a moment / give me an opinion on …)?
  • I’m so sorry. This will just take a minute.
  • I apologize for the interruption, but I have an important question.

Interrupting to Join the Conversation With a Question
Using questions are a polite way of interrupting. Here are some of the most common questions we ask in order to be allowed to join the conversation.

  • Could I jump in?
  • Could I add something?
  • Can I say something?
  • May I interject?

Interrupting to Join the Conversation
During a conversation we might need to interrupt the conversation if we are not asked for our opinion. In this case, these phrases will help.

  • Would you mind if I joined the conversation?
  • I couldn’t help overhearing. (Use when listening to a conversation that you are not a part of)
  • Sorry to butt in, but I think / feel …
  • If I may, I think / feel …

Interrupting Someone Who Has Interrupted You
Sometimes we don’t want to allow an interruption. In this case, use the following phrases to bring the conversation back to your point of view.

  • Please let me finish.
  • Let me complete my thought.
  • Would you please let me finish?
  • Can I continue, please?
  • Allowing an Interruption

If you want to allow an interruption, use one of these short phrases to allow the person to ask a question, express an opinion, etc.

  • No problem. Go ahead.
  • Sure, what do you think?
  • That’s OK. What do you need / want?

Continuing After an Interruption
Once you’ve been interrupted you can continue your point after the interruption by using one of these phrases.

  • As I was saying, I think / feel …
  • To get back to what I was saying, I think / feel …
  • I’d like to return to my argument.
  • Continuing where I left off…

Example Dialogue

Example 1: Interrupting for Something Else

Helen: … it’s really amazing how beautiful Hawaii is. I mean, you couldn’t think of anywhere more beautiful.

Anna: Excuse me, but Tom is on the phone.

Helen: Thanks Anna. This will only take a moment.

Anna: Can I bring you some coffee while she takes the call?

George: No thanks. I’m fine.

Anna: She’ll be just a moment.

Example 2: Interrupting to Join the Conversation

Marko: If we continue to improve our sales in Europe we should be able to open new branches.

Stan: Could I add something?

Marko: Of course, go ahead.

Stan: Thanks Marko. I think we should open new branches in any case. If we improve sales great, but if we don’t we still need to open stores.

Marko: Thank you Stan. As I was saying, if we improve sales we can afford to open new branches.