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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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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
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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.

1 Answer

"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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