Asking for Clarification

Most English learners will hit some stumbling blocks in their careers. It can be difficult to understand native speakers who speak quickly; or with a strong accent; or people who use words and phrases that are unusual or that you don’t understand. It’s important in these situations not to panic. There are lots of ways to ask for things to be made clearer or to check if you have understood correctly.

Asking Someone to Slow Down

Many English speakers forget that they are talking to someone for whom English is not their first language, and so they speak at pace or quickly. Here are some expressions you can use to ask them to slow down:

I’m sorry, would you mind speaking more slowly, please?

Could you slow down a little? English is not my first language.

You are speaking a little too fast for me to keep up.

I’m taking some notes here. Could you slow down a bit, please?


Asking Someone to Repeat What They Have Said

Sometimes you might have no clue what someone has just said, and you might need to ask them to repeat the information entirely. Obviously, there is a limit to how many times you can do this for one sentence, so use these carefully:

Could you repeat that for me?

Would you mind going over that again?

Could you say that again?

I didn’t quite catch/get that, sorry.

Could you say that again, please?



Checking That You Understand

Even when you are sure you understand, it is wise to double check you have all the right details. You can use expressions like:

Let me read that back to you…

Just to clarify…

Can I check if I have that right?

I just want to be sure that I understand correctly…

So, to summarise, what you are looking for is…

To sum up…

If I understand correctly...


And if You Really Can't Understand Anything…

I’m so sorry, I’ve never heard that expression/word before.

Would you mind giving me more details on that?

Could you be more specific?

Can you phrase that differently?

Could you explain that in simpler terms?

I’m really not following you.

I’m not with you, sorry.


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