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May 7, 2018

How to politely ask someone to repeat what they just said

As language (or English) users, we've definitely found ourselves in a situation where we were being forced to ask someone to repeat what they just said at least once simply because we didn't really get some of the things they said while conversing with them. At this point, our response has always been a generic or hurried "What?" in order to make the person repeat what he/she has said. Well, if this has already happened to you, it is high time you stopped using "What?" to make someone repeat what they just said. Are you wondering why? Keep reading.
How to politely ask someone to repeat what they just said

What?” is considered an uneducated way to ask for something to be repeated. And because I have always wanted you to make your English posh, in this article, I will give you the five most common ways to politely ask someone to repeat what they just said. 

1. I am sorry?
Before now, did you know that "I'm sorry?" is a simple, courteous and an informal way to ask someone to repeat something for you? Yes, It is. Please note that it is important to use the correct intonation, that is, slightly interrogative, to show that you want the speaker to repeat what he/she just said. You mustn't say it like a statement, "I am sorry." Otherwise, the speaker will think that you are apologizing. As a matter of fact, the question mark at the end of the expression is not there for a mere fanciful purpose; it is there to serve its right function. Therefore, you should say the expression correctly. In any case, this is a humble expression as it implies that the fault for not understanding is yours and not the speaker’s.
Example:
Speaker A: Could you please give me your pen?

Speaker B: I am sorry?

Speaker B only wants Speaker A to repeat what he (speaker A) just said.

2. Pardon?
I know you are very much conversant with this. In fact, you use it almost every day. It is another kind but informal way to ask for repetition of something that was just said. Like "I am sorry", it must be pronounced with a slight interrogative intonation. It is slightly classier than "I am sorry" but may be considered a bit old fashioned.
Example:
Speaker A: Have you heard of Tammy's English Blog?

Speaker B: Pardon?

3. Could you say that again?
This is a direct and effective way to request the repetition of what has been said. It is also friendly and formal unlike the previous expressions.
Example:
Speaker A: What is the total cost of the items?

Speaker B: 500, 000 naira.

Speaker A: Could you say that again?


4. Sorry, I didn’t catch that.
This phrase is slightly more articulated and literally means that you have neither caught nor heard what was said, thereby making the speaker to repeat what was said. It is usually used if the problem lies in the hearing of the listener, perhaps due to environmental noises or the speaker's inability to speak audibly.
Example:
Speaker A: I have deposited the sum of five million naira in your account.

Speaker B: Sorry, I didn't catch that. Could you be audible, please?

5. I am sorry. I don’t understand.
This phrase is used when the speaker's accent or the way the speaker expresses himself is not clearly understood by the listener. With this expression, the listener makes it clear that he/she does not understand the speaker's English. In this way, instead of repeating the same sentence with the same tone and the same words, the speaker tries to express himself in another way, perhaps speaking slower or using simpler words just to ensure that the listener understands him. 
Example:
Speaker A: Amina has been put in the family way.

Speaker B: I am sorry. I don’t understand. Could you repeat that, please?

Speaker A: Amina is pregnant.

Having said that, it is very important to reiterate that intonation is fundamental as regards the subject matter. Intonation means the rise and fall of the tone of your voice when speaking. When you are speaking English, you risk being impolite if you don’t pay attention to the tone of your voice. In like manner, the aforementioned polite expressions can be considered as impolite expressions if the right intonation is not used when pronouncing them. This can as well alter their actual meanings. Therefore, it is important you always use the right intonation on these expressions. Remember, your language is your bargaining power; make it posh!

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