In our personal & professional life, while talking to someone, we all have situations when we don’t clearly understand what the other person is saying. Thus we need to ask them for further clarification without feeling awkward. So, how do you politely ask for clarification in English?
“Would you say that again, please?” & “I am afraid I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat it?” are the common formal ways of asking someone for clarification in English. Informally “You can simply say “Sorry?” or “Come again?” with a curious tone to ask someone for clarification.
Why Is Asking for Clarification Necessary?
Every day, we get engaged in conversations for different purposes. While we communicate with others, we exchange information and opinion. However, there can be miscommunication if information or opinion is not clearly expressed or understood. So, if you are confused about understanding what the other person said in a conversation, you should ask for clarification.
Suppose you just received a prescription from the doctor after the diagnosis. If your doctor gives you any instructions, you must follow them. However, if the instruction is unclear, you may need to ask for clarification so you can take medicine properly.
Now, let’s see a short conversation between a doctor and a patient that involves asking for clarification.
Doctor: You should take this medicine once a day.
Patient: Thanks, doctor. But would you please tell me what would be the best time to take it?
Doctor: Oh, sure. It would be best if you took it in the morning before the meal.
Patient: Alright! Thank you, doctor.
Doctor: You’re welcome. I wish you good health.
You see! How important it may become at times to ask for clarification. Now we’ll learn some very useful expressions that you can use to politely ask for clarification in English.
General Polite English Expressions for Clarification
There are different ways you can ask for clarification in English. Whether you are in a formal or informal situation, politeness is the key to a good conversation. Therefore, when you request someone to clarify something, you may use modal verbs to sound polite.
The modal verb “Would” is the most formal word with which you can form the politest expressions. However, “Could” is less polite, and “Can” is the least polite word among these three. Now, let’s learn some expressions that native speakers of English commonly use to ask for clarification.
- Would/Could you please say that again for me/us?
- Could/Would you repeat this/it, please?
- Would/Could you please clarify it for me/us?
- Could/Would you explain it again, please?
- Could/Would you please put it differently so that it becomes easy for me to understand?
- Can/Would/Could you be a bit/little more specific, please?
- Could/Would/Can you be a bit clearer about it?
- Could/Would/Can you explain what you mean by this?
- Can/Could/Would you give me an example, please?
- Could/Would/Can you please walk me through that again?
- Would/Could you please elaborate on it for me?
- Can you please break it down for me?
- May I ask you to clarify the matter for me/all of us?
- I want to request you to repeat it, may I?
- I wonder if you can say it in a different way for me/us.
- I beg your pardon. I don’t quite catch what you said.
- I am sorry, but I couldn’t follow what you said.
- I’m not sure about what you said.
- It’s my bad that I don’t quite understand you.
- Is it possible to elaborate on what you said right now?
- Is that/this ok if I ask/request you to clarify it?
- What do you really mean by this/that?
- Please repeat it for me to understand it clearly.
Guide to Asking for Clarification on Someone’s Opinion or Position
When someone expresses their opinion, you may not clearly understand what they mean or what their position about the matter is. In this situation, you may need to ask them to repeat, explain or clarify their position.
Well! When you ask someone to clarify their position, it’s better to ask them open-ended questions (WH questions and Choice/Alternative questions) rather than closed questions (Yes-No and Tag questions). However, on many occasions, you may also need to use closed questions as well.
Here are some useful expressions to ask someone to clarify their position or opinion.
- Would/Could you please repeat what you said about the issue?
- Did you mean it’s worth buying the flat?
- So, you are supporting this, am I right?
- Can/Could/Would you please repeat your take on that?
- Please clarify your opinion.
- May I ask you to clarify your position on this?
- Is it possible to rephrase your opinion?
- Would it be possible for me to hear from you about this again?
- I couldn’t follow what you said about it. It’s my bad.
- I beg pardon, but can you please repeat what you said about the new product launch?
How to Ask for Clarification on Someone’s Request
When someone makes any requests to you to do something, you need to understand what precisely the person is asking from you. You may not respond or help them accordingly if you don’t understand. So, to understand the request, on many occasions, you may need to ask for clarification.
So, how do you politely ask for clarification on someone’s request in English? Here are some expressions to ask for clarification on their requests.
- Have you requested to send me the MS Word file or the PDF?
- Did you ask me to close the main door or this door?
- Would you like me to switch off all the lights?
- Do you want me to do it for you?
- Can you please tell me again what document you requested?
- Excuse me! Did you want some forks?
- John, you asked for the stapler, right?
- Will you please mention again the name of the items you requested from the store?
- May I ask you to say the things again that you requested earlier?
- Did you want me to clean the house?
Guide to Asking for Clarification When Someone Seeks Permission
When someone asks for permission for something from you, you may not always listen to them appropriately. However, if you don’t understand them, you should ask them to clarify.
Here are some expressions to ask for clarification when someone asks for your permission.
- Did you say that you want to go there alone?
- Have you asked for permission to use my laptop?
- So, you want to take it, right?
- Would you please repeat what you wanted permission for?
- Do you want to attend the party?
- May I know what you just wanted permission for.?
- You mean you need some books from the library, isn’t it?
- Would you mind saying what type of permission, written or verbal, you need?
- Sorry to interrupt, but would you be more specific about what you seek permission for?
How to Ask for Clarification on Someone’s Order or Instructions
If someone orders you or gives instructions to do something, it’s essential to fully understand what they say. Otherwise, you may not do it properly what you are instructed for. So, if there is any confusion about instructions, make sure you ask for clarification.
Now, we’ll learn useful expressions to ask someone to clarify instructions.
- Have you wanted me to send the emails first, then attend the meeting?
- So, you want me not to go there?
- Can you rephrase the instructions, please?
- Would you please repeat the instructions for the team again?
- Please share the instructions again.
- I am sorry, but I couldn’t follow your words.?
- Could you please explain the whole process of doing this?
- Will you please repeat the standard operating procedure of this machine?
- Would you mind telling me the whole formula in detail?
- May I request further clarification of instruction number 5?
- I didn’t quite catch it. Can you repeat the ways I have to do it?
- May I know what I have to do next?
Guide to Asking for Clarification on Someone’s Suggestions
There are times when we ask for suggestions from the people surrounding us. Those suggestions sometimes are too important in our professional and personal life. However, they become useless if you don’t understand or follow them. So, you must ask for clarification if you don’t understand them.
Here, I’ll share some ways to ask for clarification on someone’s suggestions in English.
Now, we’ll learn some useful expressions to ask someone to clarify instructions.
- I’m not sure, but did you suggest updating the software?
- Thanks, you cared. But can you repeat it so I can be sure about what you suggested?
- Would you please tell me your thoughts about the issue again?
- May I ask you to share your suggestions again?
- Please share your advice again.
- I am sorry, but I couldn’t follow your suggestions.
- Could you rephrase what you just said to me about the problem?
- Will you be a bit more specific about your experiences?
- Would you mind sharing the suggestion again?
- Have you just suggested calling him when he is home?
How to Ask for Clarification on Someone’s Statement or Information
When someone says anything, they usually give you information about something or someone. On many occasions, you may not receive the exact information for many reasons. However, it would be best to ask for clarification when you don’t get someone’s statement or information. So, how do you do it?
No worries! Here we’ll see some expressions you can use to ask for clarification in English on someone’s statement or information.
Now, we’ll learn some useful expressions to ask someone to clarify instructions.
- I am sorry, but did you say he is the company’s CEO?
- Would you please repeat what you said about our new project?
- I beg your pardon, but have you mentioned my name as a team member for the new project?
- So, do you really think this will be a profitable deal?
- Could you please repeat the date of the event?
- May I ask you to explain your observation about the new design further?
- Do you mind if I ask you to mention his name again? Sorry I couldn’t follow you earlier.
- Can you please be a bit more specific about the price?
- Will you please share the total amount again?
- Would you mind repeating the name of the place?
- Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch your statement. Would you please repeat it?
- Have you just said you will go to Cox’s Bazar next week?
Guide to Asking for Clarification on Someone’s Questions
Well! We encounter numerous questions in our everyday life. No matter where you are, maybe at home, the office, or somewhere else, you need to respond to questions. However, if you don’t understand someone’s question, you should ask for clarification and answer accordingly.
We’ll learn some expressions to ask for clarification on someone’s questions.
- Can you please ask the question again?
- Would you please repeat what you asked?
- Did you ask about the total turnover for this year?
- I’m sorry, but I couldn’t follow your question.
- Please repeat the question.
- May I request you share your queries again?
- Could you rephrase your question, please?
- Will you please explain the question to me?
- I am sorry, but I couldn’t get your question.
- Do you mind asking the question again?
How to Respond When Someone Clarifies Something
Once someone clarifies something for you, you must appreciate their effort. You should appreciate them and give them compliments for doing this favor for you. You should thank them from the core of your heart.
Now, let’s see some English expressions that you can use to respond to someone’s clarification.
- Thank you for explaining the question to me.
- I appreciate the way you clarified it.
- I’m glad that you specifically explained the issue.
- I admire that you clarified your position.
- I feel privileged that you repeated it.
- Thanks for clearly letting me know your opinion; I value whatever you suggest.
- Thanks for the effort you made to explain it again.
- This is so nice of you to clarify it.
7 Tips for Asking for Clarification in English
- Be polite in the choice of your words, tone, and body language. Remember that no matter in which context you are, politeness is the key to a good conversation.
- Always keep in mind that the other person is not bound to clarify things again for you. So, you must request them to do this favor for you.
- You should ask for an apology first, as you already have missed what the person said earlier. You should not blame someone else if you don’t understand the other person’s words.
- Always try to ask open-ended questions while asking for clarification. A good way is to summarize what you have understood and didn’t.
- Be specific about what you expect to be clarified. You should only ask for clarification if you really feel it requires clarification.
- Always consider the setting: formal and informal. You must not behave and speak in a formal setting as you do in an informal one.
- Say that you didn’t understand rather than saying that the other person could not clarify it.
I have discussed several situations where you may need to ask for clarification in English. Try to use them in real life and master them. If you still have questions about this, you can comment below.
Thanks for reading.