Asking for repetition

Communication can be hard sometimes for English language students. In certain situations parts of a conversation or a speech will not be understood due to different reasons, for instance, the way other people talk (too fast or too quiet), the fact that we are not familiar with their accent or the vocabulary they use, or an excessively noisy environment. Fortunately, it is easy to find different ways in English language to ask for clarification, a few of which are shown below.

  1. Can you repeat that, please? This is the basic way to request someone to repeat what he or she has already said, however it is very often incorrectly formulated. It is quite common to hear English language students say “Can you repeat, please?” which is incorrect. After the verb “repeat” we need to add the direct object, in this case, whatever we want to hear again. Therefore we should say “Can you repeat it, please?” or “Can you repeat that, please? If we want to sound more polite, we can use a different modal verb: Could you repeat that, please?
  2. Say it again, please” can perfectly replace the verb “repeat” in this sentence. In fact, this formula is very common in English-speaking countries: “Can you say it again?”/”Can you say that again?”
  3. Indirect questions. It is a good option if we want to sound more formal or polite. Here you can find a few examples: “I wondered if you could repeat that, please”/”I wondered whether you could possibly say it again”/”Would it be possible for you to repeat that, please?”.
  4. Rephrase the sentence. You can use different expressions to tell the other person to repeat the sentence in a way you can understand. For example: “Sorry, I didn’t understand…”/”I didn’t catch that…”/”can you say that in a different way?”
  5. If we are having trouble with particular words or vocabulary we are not familiar with, then we should focus on the meaning of those words: “Excuse me, what is the meaning of…?” /”Could you tell me what ——– means?”/”Sorry, I don’t know the meaning of ——-«

We hope you find this useful. Remember, when you are learning English it will not always be possible for you to understand everything you hear, and native speakers are aware of this. That is why they will be always happy to help make communication easier for you (but don’t forget to ask!).

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