If you do not clearly hear what another person said, you can say "Excuse me" or "Pardon me" to ask them to repeat it politely.

But if you still don't get it, what should you say to ask them to repeat it again? Will a native speaker consider it rude?

  • 8
    I'd be totally honest & say something like this the third time: "I'm really sorry, but I'm having a problem understanding what you're saying. I don't know why, but can you express it in another way?" That way, you don't have to tell speakers that their pronunciation or enunciation is poor, their grammar or vocabulary (or both) is difficult, or that your listening comprehension ability is sub-par. It casts blame nowhere, isn't rude, & should defuse any speaker's impatience with someone who needs to be spoken to in a special way.
    – user264
    Feb 9, 2013 at 7:29
  • Related
    – Mistu4u
    Feb 9, 2013 at 8:20
  • I try to ask for clarification in a different way. e.g. "could you spell that word for me?" Sep 8, 2015 at 8:20

5 Answers 5


Most native speakers of English will only ask for a repeat once or twice, and after that will pretend they understood, so as not to appear rude. I don't mind if people ask me more than twice, but from observing people - twice seems to be a social norm.

I would usually say:


What was that?

Sorry, what?

I didn't get that.

I didn't catch that.

I missed that.

Say that again.

Remember that it takes a fair bit of skill to say "What?" without sounding rude, so if you are worried about sounding rude, don't use "What?" and don't forget to add please and thank you. Native speakers, however, will often just say "What?".

If you are asking a second time you can add "still" or some other modifier:

I still didn't get that.

I still didn't catch that.

I missed that again.

Sorry, one more time.

When asking multiple times "What?" sounds rude very quickly.

  • These are all good ways to repeat it without being quite as awkward and repeating the same thing several times. In terms of etiquette, though, it can be better to blame your own hearing or similar, to avoid implying that the other person's speech is at fault
    – Jon Story
    Nov 25, 2014 at 17:28

In British English, the polite way to ask someone to repeat what they just said would be:

Pardon me, could you repeat that please?

This is sometimes shortened to

Pardon me?

or even


  • 1
    This may be a regional thing. I'm a British English speaker, and I associate "pardon me" with American English. I'd probably use "I'm sorry, could you repeat that please". Feb 11, 2013 at 12:56
  • @SteveMelnikoff: I'm a British English speaker too. And "pardon me" was in wide usage as the "politest" form of saying "please repeat that, I didn't hear". I remember being told off at primary school (in Manchester) for saying "What?" when the polite way is to say "Pardon?".
    – Matt
    Feb 11, 2013 at 17:54
  • Pardon would be used, pardon me would not. Pardon me tends to be used when your own speech is at fault, such as if you stammer or cough partway through a sentence.
    – Jon Story
    Nov 25, 2014 at 17:30

Depending on circumstances I usually resort to one of two tactics:

If I've heard/understood more of the sentence when it was repeated the first time, I'd say something like: "Sorry, I still didn't catch the bit after <whatever I did hear properly>. Can you say that again, please?"

If the person's repeat didn't make it clearer for me at all, I'd resort to humour and say something like: "I've gone deaf in one ear and I can't hear out the other. Could you repeat that for me again?", or "Please excuse me, I washed my ears this morning and I can't do a thing with them. Do you mind saying that again, a bit louder/slower for me, please?".

  • I am a native English speaker and I have to ask a non-native-speaker to repeat themselves multiple times. The setting involves technical information needed to fix issues with software products. Getting the information right is mandatory. mcalex's answer is very close to the approach that succeeds for me. Expressing the failure to understand as my failing, I think helps take the social/emotional pressure off so the speaker so they can focus on the communication and success occurs sooner. Also, repeating back <what I heard> even if incorrect, helps; they correct me, and we succeed sooner. May 1, 2019 at 20:08

There are too much ways to ask it. But I know and idiom:

Come Again?

Source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Come+again

  • Perhaps you could explain why this is specifically a good thing to say on second or subsequent repetitions (as the question asked)? Your answer doesn't really give a reason. Nov 29, 2014 at 2:54
  • But the idiom "Come again?" means: I didn't hear what you said. Please repeat it. Just as explained in source.
    – MSH
    Nov 30, 2014 at 3:53

Say, instance

Pardon me could you repeat the saying or word.

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