Say What? Ways to Ask for Clarification in English

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 12.39.50 PMWhen practicing English, it can be a good idea to practice with native English speakers. One of the best ways to do this is through simple conversation. When speaking to others, there may come a time when you will not understand something being said. Here, we will go over the best ways to ask for clarification in both formal and casual settings. With these questions, you will be ready to practice English with anyone!

For Casual Situations

Friends, family, and other familiar people do not need to be spoken to formally. Get the clarification you need when practicing English with these informal questions.

1. What did you say?

This question gets right to the point. If you are confused, get clarity with this basic question. This approach works best with people you are familiar with or when engaging in small talk.

2. I’m sorry?

Gently ask for clarification with this phrase. When said as a question, this is intended to ask the other person to repeat what they just said.

3. Come again?

This is a somewhat common way to ask someone to repeat what they just said.

For Formal Situations

When in a professional setting, such as the office, or when conversing with people you have not met before, it is always a good idea to use a more formal approach. Here are some favored formal questions to help you practice.

1. I beg your pardon?

When talking to superiors or respected people, use this more formal line. It is both incredibly polite and universally understood.

2. I didn’t catch that. Could you please repeat what you said?

Many people speak quickly, especially when in their native tongue. Do not be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves!

3. Could you please give me an example?

Confidently asking the person you are practicing English with to provide an example to back up their statements is a great way to use context clues. Realistic examples can provide a bit more information that could be useful in understanding the message.

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