Phonetic Alphabet

The phonetic alphabet is a commonly accepted way to pronounce letters in a way that is distinct as possible so as to be easily understood by those who exchanged voice messages by radio or telephone, regardless of language differences or the quality of the connection.

NATO phonetic alphabet image
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Q Signals

Q-signals are a type of radio shorthand that is based on old wireless and telegraph codes. By using these universal abbreviations, we can easily communicate with amateur operators who might speak a different language and share information with them.

While the full meanings of the Q-signals are listed below in a second table, they are often used casually and very informally in conversation. When listening, you hear them used to simply substitute or replace a word. Here is a list of those more common “short” meanings.

SignMeaning
QRAName
QRBDistance
QRGFrequency
QRKIntelligibility
QRLBusy
QRMInterference
QRNNoise
QROHigh power
QRPLow power
QRQHigh speed CW
QRSLow speed CW
QRSSVery low speed CW
QRTShut down the station
QRVReady
QRXStand by
QRZ?Who is calling me?
QSBFading
QSDDefective keying
QSKBreak in
QSLConfirmation or card to confirm contact
QSORadio contact
QSYChange frequency
QTCMessage
QTHLocation
QTRTime

The Q-signals that amateurs radios operators use are a subset of the larger collection of International Q-signals. While they are based on older systems, today we use them all the time in ham radio. Here is a more detailed “formal” list of commonly used Q-signals.

Note that the Q-signal is only considered a question if it is followed by a “?” character.

SignQuestionAnswer
QRAWhat is the name (or call sign) of your station?The name (or call sign) of my station is …
QRBHow far are you from my station?The distance between our stations is … nautical miles (or km).
QRGWill you tell me my exact frequency (or that of …)?Your exact frequency (or that of … ) is … kHz (or MHz).
QRHDoes my frequency vary?Your frequency varies.
QRIHow is the tone of my transmission?The tone of your transmission is (1: good, 2: variable 3: bad)
QRKWhat is the readability of my signals (or those of …)?The readability of your signals (or those of …) is … (1: bad .. 5: excellent).
QRLAre you busy?I am busy. (or I am busy with … ) Please do not interfere.
QRMDo you have interference?I have interference.
QRNAre you troubled by static noise?I am troubled by static noise.
QROShall I increase transmit power?Please increase transmit power.
QRPShall I decrease transmit power?Please decrease transmit power.
QRQShall I send faster?Please send faster (… words per minute).
QRSShall I send more slowly?Please send more slowly (… words per minute).
QRTShall I cease or suspend operation?I am suspending operation.
QRUHave you anything for me?I have nothing for you.
QRVAre you ready?I am ready.
QRXShall I standby? / When will you call me again?Please standby. / I will call you again at … (hours) on … kHz (or MHz).
QRZWho is calling me?You are being called by … (on … kHz (or MHz)).
QSAWhat is the strength of my signals (or those of … )?The strength of your signals (or those of …) is … (1: very weak .. 5: very strong).
QSBAre my signals fading?Your signals are fading.
QSDIs my keying defective?Your keying is defective.
QSKCan you hear me between your signals (while transmitting), and if so can I break in on your transmission?I can hear you between my signals (while transmitting); break in on my transmission.
QSLCan you acknowledge receipt?I am acknowledging receipt.
QSMShall I repeat the last telegram (message) which I sent you, or some previous telegram (message)?Repeat the last telegram (message) which you sent me (or telegram(s) (message(s)) numbers(s) …).
QSNDid you hear me (or …) on … kHz (or MHz)?I did hear you (or …) on … kHz (or MHz).
QSOCan you communicate with … direct or by relay?I can communicate with … direct (or by relay through …).
QSPWill you relay a message to …?I will relay a message to … .
QSSWhat working frequency will you use?I will use … kHz (or MHz).
QSUShall I send or reply on this frequency (or on … kHz (or MHz))?Please send or reply on this frequency (or on … kHz (or MHz)).
QSVShall I send a series of “V” on this frequency (or on … kHz (or MHz))?Please send a series of “V” on this frequency (or on … kHz (or MHz)).
QSXWill you listen to … on … kHz (or MHz)?I am listening to … on … kHz (or MHz).
QSYShall I change transmission frequency (to … kHz (or MHz))?Please change transmission frequency (to … kHz (or MHz)).
QSZShall I send each word or group more than once?Send each word or group twice (or … times).
QTCHow many telegrams (messages) have you to send?I have … telegrams (messages) for you (or for …).
QTHWhat is your position in latitude and longitude (or according to any other indication)?My position is … latitude, … longitude.
QTRWhat is the correct time?The correct time is … hours.

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