How to Ask for Clarification in English

Published on May 22, 2021 | Updated on April 13, 2024

Asking for clarification in English is important to avoid misunderstandings with family, friends and co-workers.

We can do it in two main ways:

#1Asking for Clarification
#2Asking for Repetition

Now let’s check the different ways to ask for repetition and clarification in English

How to Ask for Repetition in English

There are several ways to ask for repetition in English, the most common way to do it is using modal such as:

CouldMore Formal
WouldMore Formal than can and could

As indicated in the chart, there is a degree of formality in each one of them but would stand above the others

Let’s check each one of them in detail.

Asking for Repetition with Can

These are some of the questions that we can make to ask someone to repeat something:

  • Can you repeat that again?
  • Can you say that again?

Asking for Repetition with Could

You can also use the word “could” to express the same thing:

  • Could you repeat that again?
  • Could you say that again?

As you can see, you can replace can with the modal could and the questions still make sense.

Asking for Repetition with Would

You can also use the modal “would” to ask for repetition in English

  • Would you mind repeating that again?
  • Would you mind saying that again?

Remember that using would you mind requires that the verb is in its continuos form


Now let’s check some informal questions to ask for repetition in English

Asking for Repetition in Informal Situations

You can also use these casual phrases with friends in informal situations

  • I am sorry, what was that?
  • One More time?
  • What was that?
  • What did you say?

How to Ask for Clarification in English

These are some common expressions to ask for clarification.

  • What do you mean by that?
  • Can you give us an example?
  • Could you give us an example?
  • Could you be more specific?
  • Could you elaborate on that?

These are some expressions to indicate that you didn’t understand

  • I don’t understand what you mean
  • I am not sure what you mean
  • I didn’t get it
  • I didn’t catch that

We can also ask questions when we want clarify something

  • What exactly are you saying?
  • What are you suggesting?

These are some phrases that we use when we have to clarify something In English

  • I mean…
  • My point is …
  • In other words…

You can use these expressions to show that you understood

  • Now I see
  • Now I get it
  • Now I understand

Besides showing that you understand, you can express gratitude

  • I got it. Thank you!
  • Ah, I see. Thanks for clarifying.
  • Now I understand. Thanks a lot.

Short Exchanges: Asking for Clarification

These are some short exchanges about people asking for clarification

Short Exchange: A

AndreaYou have to finish the website details today
MikeCan you repeat that again?
AndreaThe website has to be ready today

Short Exchange: B

AndreaYou have a video conference today at 5
MikeCan you say that again?
AndreaThe video conference starts at 5

Short Exchange: C

AndreaYou have to improve the speed of the application
MikeCan you be more specific?
AndreaDelete the big images from the app

Short Exchange: D

AndreaWe are going to reduce some costs
MikeCan you be more specific?
AndreaWe are going to work from home

Conversation: Asking for Clarification

This is a conversation which includes asking for repetition examples

RyanHello Jess
JessicaDid you call the client?
RyanSorry, I don’t have his number
JessicaHis number is 8586-0234
RyanCan you repeat that again?
JessicaHis number is 8586-0234
RyanThank U

This is a conversation which includes asking for clarification examples

RyanHello Jess
JessicaAre you busy?
RyanNot so much? How can I help you?
JessicaWe have to improve the speed of the site
RyanCould you be more specific?
JessicaYes, take some time to minify the CSS, HTML and Scripts
RyanNow I understand. Thanks a lot.

Videos Asking for Repetition and Clarification

This is a video that will help you learn more about asking for repetitions and clarifications in English

Related Information

These are some posts that you might want to check out before you leave

  1. How to Express Feelings in English
  2. How to Give Advice in English
  3. How to Talk about Health Problems in English
  4. How to Talk about Sport and Leisure Activities
  5. How to Give Directions in English
  6. How to Talk about Vacation Plans in English
  7. How to Make Complaints in English
  8. How to Describe Jobs in English
Manuel Campos

Manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of EnglishPost.org, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English