English Usage Topics > Asking for Repetition
Asking for Repetition
You ask someone to repeat what they have said when you have not heard them or when you have not understood them. You can also ask someone to repeat what they have said when you feel that what they have said is surprising or impolite.
In an informal situation, you usually ask someone to repeat what they have said using a short fixed expression such as 'Sorry?', 'I'm sorry?', or 'Pardon?'
'Have you seen my book anywhere?' – 'Sorry?' – 'Seen my book?'
'Well, what about it?' – 'I'm sorry?' – 'What about it?'
'How old is she?' – 'Pardon?' – 'I said how old is she?'
Some people say 'Come again?'
'It's on Monday.' – 'Come again?' – 'Monday.'
In American English, 'Excuse me?' is also used in this way. Some people say 'Pardon me?'
'You do see him once in a while, don't you?' – 'Excuse me?' – 'I thought you saw him sometimes.'
Some people use 'What?', 'You what?', or 'Eh?' to ask someone to repeat something, but these expressions are impolite.
'Do you want another coffee?' – 'What?' – 'Do you want another coffee?'
You can use a wh-word to check part of what someone has said.
'Can I speak to Nikki, please?' – 'Who?' – 'Nikki.'
'We've got a special offer in April for Majorca.' – 'For where?' – 'Majorca.'
'I don't like the tinkling.' – 'The what?' – 'The tinkling.'
If you think you heard what someone said but are not sure, or are surprised, you can repeat it, or repeat part of it, making it sound like a question.
'I just told her that rain's good for her complexion.' – 'Rain?'
'I have a message for you?' – 'A message?'
You add again to the end of a question when you are asking someone to repeat something that they told you a little while ago and which you have forgotten.
What's his name again?
Where are we going again?
Asking more formally
When talking to someone you do not know well, you use longer expressions such as 'Sorry, what did you say?', 'I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that', 'I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said', 'I'm sorry, would you mind repeating that again?', and 'Would you repeat that, please?'
'What about tomorrow at three?' – 'Sorry, what did you say?' – 'I said, What about meeting tomorrow at three?'
Would you repeat that, I didn't quite catch it.
The expressions 'Beg your pardon?' and 'I beg your pardon?' are sometimes used, but they are fairly formal and old-fashioned.
'Did he listen to you?' – 'Beg your pardon?' – 'Did he listen to you?'
'Did they have a dog?' – 'I beg your pardon?' – 'I said did they have a dog?'
'I beg your pardon?' (but not 'Beg your pardon?') is also used to show that you find what someone says surprising or offensive. The word beg is stressed.
'Where the devil did you get her?' – 'I beg your pardon?'
Speakers of American English also use 'Excuse me' in this way, but it is important that you strongly stress the second syllable of excuse to make the meaning clear.
Get all volumes of in paperback or eBook.