If you have travelled abroad and have had the opportunity to speak English, you have definitely had to ask someone to repeat what they just said at least once. There is an infinite variety of accents in English that are very different from each other. Even if you have a very well-trained ear that can understand New York or London English, it still might be difficult for you to understand those who come from other areas or other countries.
At this point, the most common temptation is to respond with a generic and hurried “What?” Well, if that has already happened to you, try to avoid falling into that trap again. “What?” is considered an uneducated way to ask for something to be repeated. Also, don’t forget that intonation is fundamental. When you are speaking English, you risk being impolite if you don’t pay attention to the tone of your voice. Since we know that sooner or later you will find yourself in a situation where you will have to ask someone to repeat something in English, in this article we’ll give you the five most common ways to do so.
I am sorry…?
This is a simple, informal, and courteous way to ask someone to repeat something for you. It is important to use the correct intonation, that is, slightly interrogative. Otherwise, the speaker will think that you are apologizing. In any case, this is a humble expression as it implies that the fault for not understanding is yours and not the speaker’s.
Could you keep the receipt during the visit, please?
I am sorry…?
Another kind, but informal way to ask for repetition of something that was just said. In this case as well, it must be pronounced with a slight interrogative intonation. It is slightly more elegant than the previous expression but now may be considered a bit old fashioned.
Do you know at what time the bus is coming?
Could you say that again?
A direct and effective way to request the repetition of a sentence. This is also friendly and a bit more formal than the simple and colloquial “Sorry.“
Can I have two tickets for the movie?
That will be 12 dollars, please.
Could you say that again?
Sorry, I didn’t catch that.
This phrase is slightly more articulated and literally means that you have not caught, or heard, what was said. It is usually used if the problem lies in the hearing of the listener, perhaps due to environmental noises or because the speaker is speaking softly.
The Job Center is around the corner at 322.
Sorry, I didn’t catch that. It is a bit noisy here! Could you repeat what you said?
I am sorry. I don’t understand.
Direct and appropriate, this phrase shows that the problem is linguistic and is due to either the accent of the speaker or the way they express themselves. With this expression, you make it clear that you did not understand their English. In this way, instead of repeating the same sentence with the same tone and the same words, the speaker will try to change their way of expressing themselves, perhaps speaking slower or using simpler words. Above all, if they have used slang or sayings that you may not yet know, then they will express themselves more generally and clearly.
What do you reckon about the unpredictable British weather?
I am sorry. I don’t understand. Could you repeat that, please?
What do you think of the crazy British weather?
Now that you know how to ask for something to be repeated, your English will make a lot of progress. You can progress much more with ABA English, who offer 144 video classes and a good variety of short films that you can access any time that you feel the need to review what you have learned. You will also have the opportunity to communicate with native teachers, who are always ready to clear up your doubts. Are you ready for your English class?