What do you do when you’ve heard the teacher or another student speaking to you, but you’re not sure you know, or understand, exactly what they said?
You have to ask for clarification. Here’s how…
Sorry? and Pardon? are both used to show we don’t understand someone. If you want to be very informal you can just say: What? Or even “Wha?” But it’s not good manners; neither is Huh? Even though “Huh?” exists in almost every language. It is a rare universal word!
When asking for clarification you could be asking two different things:
1) You don’t understand something and want it explained again.
2) You think you understand and want to double check you are correct
When you do not understand what has been said you can use:
- I’m not quite sure what you mean.
- I’m not sure I follow you.
- Sorry I don’t understand.
- I’m sorry, could you say that again please?
- I’m sorry I don’t understand what ______ means.
- I’m sorry, could you say that more slowly, please?
When you think you understood what was said you can use:
- So / Do you mean….?
- Let me see if I understood you correctly…
- Can you explain what you mean by…?
- What you’re saying is…
Let’s put a few of these phrases together and see them in action
Teacher: For homework I’d like you to gather some flyers and find 5 prepositional phrases you would like to learn.
Mohammed: Huh? Sorry, I mean, Pardon teacher?
Teacher: I said I would like you to gather some flyers and find 5 prepositional phrases you would like to learn.
Mohammed: Ahh! Thank you.
Jieun: Sorry teacher, I don’t understand what flyer means.
Teacher: Could anyone explain what flyer means?
Alvaro: I think they are small paper or card advertisements.
Jieun: Oh yes, I know them. Thanks Al.
Fernanda: So what you are saying is you want us to get some paper advertisements, …, flyers, and underline 5 prepositional phrases to learn?
Teacher: That’s it exactly. Okay, have a great weekend.
Francy: Teacher, could you say that more slowly please?
Teacher: Haaave aaa
Francy: Only joking! Enjoy the weekend everyone. Seeya.