I just realized that I'm reacting to the following conversation.

A: "I think that xxx and hhh, jkjkj and lpoopik..."
B: "Could you repeat that again, please?"

The reaction I'm getting is due to the fact that repeat that is already symmantically suffient, so the amendment of again is only proper if a previous repetition's already taken place, like so.

A: "I think that xxx and hhh, jkjkj and lpoopik..."
B: "Could you repeat that?" A: "I said that xxx and hhh, jkjkj and lpoopik..."
B: "Could you repeat that again, please?"

On one hand, I feel there's something to it according to the motivation above. On the other hand, by the same logic, one would be required to reduce repeat that, please to simply repeat, please, since it's implied that the repetition request refers to the statement made.

And since that seems a bitty nitty picky to me, I'm prone to question my reaction by reductio ad absurdum. Advice?

  • This thread may help – Rompey Mar 14 '18 at 10:55
  • @Rompey Interesting as it was, it didn't help. There's someone suggesting that it's a pleonasm but then there's another poster who claims that it's a rather common construction in English that's heard everywhere. Also, the thread approaches the issue from another angle so while related, it's not determinig the answer to my question. Thanks for the link, anyway, though. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 14 '18 at 13:59

By the rules of formal grammar, you are correct. "Repeat" or "again" would be used on the second effort, but not both. The combination "repeat ... again" would be used on the third or any subsequent efforts.

The thread Rompey refers to isn't wrong.

It is very common in colloquial English to say "could you repeat that again?" on the second effort. Indeed, we're redundant quite often: "it's exactly the same," for example, is a redundancy used to emphasize the effort or quality of the duplication. (Or it's just something we say because so many of us have said it that way for so long....)

Therefore, the use of "repeat ... again" on the second effort is, indeed, a pleonasm — but it's a very common one.

Finally, you asked about removing the "that" from "repeat that" because it is obvious in the conversation what "that" would refer to. To do so would be grammatically incorrect as you would not have a complete sentence.

Could you please repeat? (incorrect)

Could you please repeat that? (correct)

However, English speakers colloquially drop "that" on a regular basis for the very reason you mention.

  • I see. So basically, if one wants to be assy, one could answer to "Can you repeat that again?" by "*No, I can't (because I haven't repeated it initially yet)." but that would be Monty Pythonian kind of humor. Interesting thing, those commonly used pleonasms - in my native language, we use them basically for anything and everything all the time and always (pun intended). – Konrad Viltersten Mar 14 '18 at 21:42
  • @KonradViltersten, You're absolutely correct that it would be very Monty Pythonian! Heck, if we obeyed all the rules all the time we'd all sound like a bunch of stiff-necked robots. Thank goodness language is fluid! – JBH Mar 14 '18 at 23:56

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