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I am not a native English speaker and use the expression "come again" in various forms such as "Come again, please" or "Can you come again?". I consider it to be a general expression which can also be used in formal speak. Is it not the case?

In my search for the answer I read through this question that discusses the sexual connotation of the phrase. But I could not definitively figure out if the expression can be used in a formal sense.

How does it fare compared to using "Pardon" or "Sorry" in the same context?

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closed as general reference by Kris, tchrist, aedia λ, Kristina Lopez, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 20 '13 at 19:13

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

come again? Informal what did you say? thefreedictionary.com/come+again urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=come%20again – Kris Feb 20 '13 at 13:18
I certainly wouldn't use this in a formal written document. I think in speech, it could be used in a reasonably formal setting. – Peter Shor Feb 20 '13 at 13:19
@PeterShor: Yes, I do understand that it would be awkward in a formal document but I am only concerned with its spoken formal usage. – KeyBrd Basher Feb 20 '13 at 13:23
Don't use it formally. Instead use Please repeat that – mplungjan Feb 20 '13 at 13:28
You’ll have to define what “an absolute slang” is. In the first place, there is no such thing as “a” slang, since slang is not a count noun. In the second place, neither does it make any sense to apply “absolute” here. What do you really mean? – tchrist Feb 20 '13 at 17:13

"Come again?" as a question has a very different meaning from "Can you come again?". The former is an informal way of asking the speaker to repeat themselves (as if you didn't understand or hear them) - the latter however is politely requesting that a person comes to a specific location on another occasion.

So in that vein the former is very much slang, and wouldn't generally be used in a formal context. As a general rule, formal speech or text should avoid phrases or colloquialisms that could be misinterpreted or have alternate meanings.

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That makes sense, the phrase in question after-all has a sexual connotation to it and could be misinterpreted. But wouldn't "Can you come again?" be self explanatory to not mean asking the other party to a location at another time, according to the context? – KeyBrd Basher Feb 20 '13 at 14:47
I can't think of a context where the meaning of "Can you come again?" changes. The added formality forces a given meaning. – PhonicUK Feb 20 '13 at 14:56
to support @PhonicUK, I want to say that I thought your examples and question were speaking about inviting a person back to a specific location. It was only until the very last sentence about "Pardon" that I even realized that the question was about repeating a statement. – horatio Feb 20 '13 at 15:26

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