How to Ask for Clarification in English

The word clarification refers to an act of making something easier to understand. What does it mean? Well, if we don’t understand what someone is telling us or if we are not quite sure what they meant, we can ask them for repetition or ask them for clarification. To do that, you need to know some commonly used phrases, so that you sound natural. In other words, we’ll learn how to ask for clarification in English.

As you already know, if you want to be polite, you should never ask things directly. Therefore, your questions should be indirect, and start with an introductory phrase such as:

  • Would you mind…
  • I’m sorry, but…
  • I’m afraid I …

For example:

  • Would you mind repeating that? I’m not sure I heard you well.
  • I’m sorry, but I don’t think I understand what you mean.
  • I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch what you said.

Asking for repetition

If you didn’t hear well what someone said, you can use some short phrases to ask for repetition.

Sorry? or  I’m sorry?

We could go for an ice cream?’  ‘Sorry?’ ‘Oh, I said we could go for an ice cream.’ 


‘Have you read this book?’ ‘Pardon? ‘Have you read this book?’, ‘No, I haven’t’.

I beg your pardon?

‘I think you’ve forgotten your umbrella.’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘I said, you’ve forgotten your umbrella.’

Come again?

‘It’s raining outside.’ ‘Come again?’ ‘It’s raining’

Excuse me?

‘We have to be at the meeting at 8.’ ‘Excuse me?’ ‘I said we must hurry because the meeting starts at 8.’

We can also ask for repetition using longer phrases.

  • Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said.
  • Would/Can/Could you repeat that, I didn’t hear you?
  • Excuse me, what did you say?
  • Would you mind saying that again?
  • Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. 
  • Excuse me, I didn’t get it. What did you say?
  • Could you speak up, please, I can’t hear you.
  • Sorry, but I’m not following you. What did you say?
  • Wait a second, I didn’t hear you.
  • I’m a bit lost here. What did you say?
How to Ask for Clarification in English

Asking for clarification

If you need to ask for clarification, it means that you don’t understand what someone told you and you need a more detailed explanation.

Here are some useful phrases to use in these situations:

  • I’m afraid I don’t quite understand.
  • I don’t think I get you.
  • I’m not sure I understand.
  • What do you mean?
  • What are you suggesting?
  • Let me see if I understand.
  • Can you elaborate on that?
  • Could/would you clarify that please?
  • Can/could you give an example?
  • Can/could/would you be more specific?

Giving clarification

Here are some phrases you can use to clarify things.

  • I’d like to explain…
  • What I mean is…
  • Sorry, let me explain…
  • Let me clarify…
  • To put it differently, 
  • To put it in another way…

Good luck with clarifying! 😀

How to ask for clarification in English
How to ask for clarification in English

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