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What are the best ways to ask an interlocutor whether he understands you in different circumstances (formal conversation, informal talk)?

What are the best ways to answer such questions meaning "I understand," "I understand and agree," and "I don't understand"?

What are the best ways to let the speaker know that you understand him and/or agree , or you don't understand when you were not asked?

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@RedGrittyBrick It would be nice if you help to improve it. – Denis Otkidach Apr 7 '11 at 10:14
Touché, I withdraw my comment :-) – RedGrittyBrick Apr 7 '11 at 10:41
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Interlocutor is a word that is rarely used in ordinary conversations.

What are the best ways to ask interlocutor whether he understands you in different circumstances (formal conversation, informal talk)?

It depends on the circumstances, an interviewer might take a more authoritative tone, an interviewee might choose a more submissive or respectful tone

Formal: "Am I being clear?" Informal: "Does that make sense?" or "Yes?"

What are the best ways to answer such questions meaning 1) I understand, 2) I understand and agree, 3) I don't understand.

There are many ways and what is "best" depends on context - relationship, mood, circumstances.

1) "I understand." 2) "Yes." 3) "Pardon?" (informal, polite) or "what on earth are you talking about?" (informal) "Sorry, I don't understand, could you please explain." (more formal, respectful) or ...

What are the best ways to let speaker know that you understand him and/or agree or don't understand when you was not asked?

Say "I don't understand you", "I agree" or "I don't understand". In the first or last case, simply insert "Sorry, " at the start to increase the politeness level.

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To make sure that the other person understands what you're saying:

  • Do you get me? (informal)
  • Do you understand me?
  • Does that make sense?

To indicate that you understand what the other person is saying, I would just answer the questions above with "Yes", "Yes, I do", "Yes, that makes sense to me", etc.

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I'm guessing you're not a native English speaker? I'll try to explain the conversational protocol as best I can... there's of course more to it than just the words.

  1. to ask whether they understand what you mean: It's important to use eye contact here. You can ask "do you know what I mean?" or "see what I'm saying?" -- these are more neutral, just for asking if they understand, not whether they agree. If you want to ask whether they understand AND agree, probably the simplest way is to just ask "right?" Wait for an answer of some kind, even a nod, before continuing.

  2. To answer, say "sure," or "I get it" or "uh-huh." Nod your head affirmatively. If you understand, but don't agree, say something like "I see what you're saying, but... " and state your objection. In the U.S., at least where I live and with the people I talk to, it's perfectly ok -- in fact it's even expected -- to express disagreement before the speaker has finished speaking, as long as you keep it short and don't try to take over or derail the conversation. Express your objection briefly, and let them get back to finishing -- or let them pursue the objection and talk with them about it, if they choose to do so.

If you don't understand you can say "I don't get it" and specifically state what you don't understand -- or if what the person said makes no sense at all, just sounds like total gobbledygook just say "what?" or even "come again?" Shaking your head also helps here.

  1. when you are not asked, and you understand, just nod or say short affirmative comments like "yeah" or "uh-huh." This is actually important, if you just sit there like a stone during conversations and don't move a muscle or say anything, you'll seem off-putting.

Finally, If you don't understand, don't be afraid to interrupt! Break in and say "Wait, hang on -- what do you mean by _" or "hold on, I don't understand". This is the most important thing of all -- at least where I live (NYC), politeness or letting people finish is nowhere near as important as real communication. If I am saying something and you don't know what I'm talking about, I want and expect you to interrupt me so that I can say it again in a different way -- I WANT you to understand me, that's why I'm talking to you.

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