Picture this: you’re having a conversation in English.
You say something, it’s perfect! No mistakes, your pronunciation was great and then…
The person you are speaking to responds.
But you missed it: either you didn’t understand what they said, their speech wasn’t clear or you were simply distracted.
You need to ask them to repeat it so you have another chance.
The easiest way to do this is to simply say “what?” with a confused expression. However, in English speaking culture this can be perceived as quite rude.
Personally I would only say “what?” in this way if I was speaking with my family or close friends. Here are some better phrases you can use instead:
“Excuse me, I didn’t hear what you said.”
“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Could you repeat that please?”
“Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said, can you repeat it?”
“Could you repeat that more slowly, please?”
“Could you say that again but more slowly, please”
“I didn’t hear you clearly, could you say that again?”
If you perhaps heard what they said but you didn’t understand and need them to explain it differently:
“ I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
“I don’t get it, could you explain it differently please?”
The best phrase to use depends on the situation as well as your personal choice. Always remember to change your speech depending on if you are in a formal or casual environment. If you are speaking with your friends in a casual way, just saying “what?” or “sorry?” might be enough to get them to repeat it, but in other scenarios you will need to be more careful and remember to include politer phrases such as “please” and “excuse me”. Often a smile can help to convey that you are being polite 🙂