Whether you're meeting with a foreign client, seeing a doctor, or taking an online English lesson, there will be times when you don't understand what the other person just said.
Today, we'll introduce 10 polite English expressions for requesting clarification.
Sometimes, the best way to ask someone for clarification is to directly ask them, "What do you mean by ... ?" A slightly more polite version of this phrase is "I'm not sure what you mean by …."
Another way to ask for clarification is to let the other person know that you didn't understand them. You can do this by saying "I don't understand" or "I'm not sure I understand."
Instead of saying "I don't understand," you can also just say "I'm (a little) confused."
Another way to say "I don't understand" is to say "I don't follow" or "I'm not following."
Telling your conversation partner what you think they meant is an effective way to ask for clarification. You can do this by saying "You mean ... ?" which is short for "Do you mean ... ?"
An alternative to "you mean ... ?" is the phrase "as in ... ." This means "in the sense of ..." or "meaning ... ."
"So you're saying ... ?" means "So you think that ... ?" or "So you mean ... ?"
"If I understand you correctly ..." is a slightly more formal way to check your understanding.
You'll also hear native speakers say "If I understood you correctly." Both the past and present tense are acceptable.
When you ask someone to "elaborate on" something, you're asking them to explain it in greater detail, which is another good way to ask for clarification.
If you "break something down," you separate it into its parts. So if you ask someone to "break down" something they said, you ask them to explain it part by part.
If you're reading this post, you probably want to improve your English conversation skills, and the best way to do that is by having actual conversations. It's even better if you can have conversations and get corrected by a professional English tutor!