10 Polite Ways to Ask People to Repeat Themselves
Whether you’re talking to a friend, having a business meeting, or taking an online English lesson, there will be times when you don't hear what the other person says. How should you ask them to repeat themselves?
Unfortunately, most English courses teach expressions that are either old-fashioned (“Pardon?”) or kind of aggressive (“Excuse me!”).
To help you out, we’ve made a list of 10 useful expressions that you can use to naturally ask people to repeat themselves.
You might hear native speakers say “What?” all the time. However, it takes a lot of skill to say “What?” without sounding rude, so we don’t recommend it.
Luckily, there’s another short expression you can use which sounds a lot better: “Sorry?” You can think of this as a short version of “Sorry. What did you say?”
So the next time you need someone to repeat themselves, just say “Sorry?” It’s simpler and more common in English conversations these days. Just make sure to raise your intonation at the end of the word as you would when asking a question.
2. Say that again?
Another easy phrase you can use to ask for repetition is “Say that again?” This is a shortened version of “Could you say that again?” and you can hear it used in this video:
You can also replace “that” with other words. For example:
- Say that last part again?
- Say your name again? I just want to make sure I know how it’s pronounced.
However, you should know that “Say that again?” is best used in casual conversations. With people you’re not close with, it’s safer to go with one of these longer versions:
- Sorry, could you say that again, please?
- Would you mind saying that again?
3. What was that?
“What was that?” is like “What?” but less blunt. It means “What was the thing you just said?” To sound even more polite, you can say “Sorry, what was that?”
4. What did you (just) say?
“What did you say?” and “What did you just say?” are two other useful English expressions you can use to ask people to repeat themselves.
- Sorry, what did you say? I didn’t hear.
- I’m sorry. What did you just say? There was some noise in the background.
Again, make sure to say this with a friendly tone of voice so you don’t accidentally sound aggressive.
5. … what?
Another alternative to “What?” is to first repeat part of what the other person said and then say “what” just like in a sample conversation below.
You can also use other question words like “when,” “where,” and “who” in this way.
- You’re going where this afternoon?
- She’s talking to who right now?
“What” is the most versatile question word, as you can use it to replace words that aren’t nouns. For example, in the following sample dialogue, it replaces a verb:
Plus, as this example shows, “ … what?” is a great way to ask people to repeat a word that you haven’t heard before and might want to write down. Next time you’re having a conversation and you want your friend or online English tutor to repeat a specific word, give this option a try.
6. I didn’t get that.
“I didn’t get that” is another way to say “I didn’t hear what you said.”
- I’m afraid I didn’t get that.
- Sorry, I didn’t get the last bit. Say that again?
If you don’t understand why “get” means “hear,” think about it like this. If your friend mails you a birthday present, they might call you a few days later to ask “Have you gotten it yet?”
Well, as we all know, packages sometimes get lost in the mail instead of arriving at your doorstep. Similarly, the words that someone else says don’t always reach your ear. That’s why English speakers say “I didn’t get that.
7. I didn’t catch that.
“I didn’t catch that” is another way to say “I didn’t get that.” To get an idea of why “catch” is used, imagine someone “threw” some words at you and you didn’t “catch” them with your ear.
- Sorry, I didn't catch that.
- Sorry, I didn't quite catch that last part.
8. I missed that.
“I missed that” is another way to say that you didn’t hear something.
- Would you mind repeating yourself? I missed the last bit.
- Sorry, I missed that.
9. I’m not sure I heard correctly.
Instead of saying “I didn’t hear you,” you can also say that you aren’t sure if you heard the person correctly. This is also a phrase you can use in more formal situations.
- I’m not sure I heard correctly. Could you repeat the question, please?
- I’m not sure I heard the last part correctly. You were saying that he wanted to quit his job?
10. Could you tell me again … ?
Sometimes, you need people to repeat something they said earlier in the conversation. In that case, you can use “Could you tell me again … ?”
- Could you tell me again why you chose to move to Germany?
- I know you already mentioned this, but could you tell me again how they met?
Bonus: How to Ask People to Repeat Themselves Yet Again
Sometimes, you ask someone to repeat themselves, but still fail to understand them. Here are some expressions you can use in this situation.
- Sorry, one more time, please.
- Sorry, I missed that again. Could you repeat that one more time, please?
- I’m so sorry. The noise is making it difficult for me to hear you. Could you say that again?
- Clearly, I need to get my ears checked! Would you mind repeating that for me, one last time?
Just remember: The more conversation practice you get, the less you’ll need to ask people to repeat themselves. Join Engoo, start taking one-on-one lessons with our professional tutors, and give your English conversation skills the boost they need!