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How do you decide which phrase to use when asking people to repeat what they said?

If I can't understand what someone said very well, how to ask him to repeat his words, but in slightly different way?

If I say, I don't understand, he may think that I'm not agree with his opinion. I'm not sure if Pardon? or Sorry? work in written English.

If what he said looks very simple: there is no uncommon words, then, I am expected to understand, however I can't. So it's more likely that I'm against their opinions if I say I don't understand. Because what he said is so easy. So, I would like him to repeat his sentence in a different way, using different words maybe. How can I ask him to repeat in different way politely?

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marked as duplicate by Mahnax, J.R., Callithumpian, kiamlaluno, Mitch Jun 1 '12 at 0:09

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Some good answers to this question are found here – J.R. May 17 '12 at 1:23
It seems a bit different question. The respond to the other question is more suitable when its obvious hard to understand, for example, if the sentence includes some uncommon words. In this question, I'm not asking for an exactly same repeat, but a different. It's not oral english that I can't catch the meaning because he said too fast. It's written and I want a different modified version. – Xiè Jìléi May 17 '12 at 1:32
Could you rephrase that? I'm not sure I understand what you mean. – J.R. May 17 '12 at 1:33
(That's not a request, that's my answer to your question) – J.R. May 17 '12 at 1:33
@Callithumpian: that's what I thought, too, initially. However, in this case, the O.P. is specifically asking for a rephrasing, rather than a retransmission, of the quote. – J.R. May 17 '12 at 9:13
up vote 8 down vote accepted

If I was in your shoes, that is, if I needed a rephrasing to be sure that I understood what the person was trying to say, I'd simply use:

Could you please rephrase that? I'm not sure I understand what you mean.


Would you please rephrase that? I want to make sure I understand you correctly.

The word "rephrase" would be a good clue that the writer should try to make the same point using different words, and the word "please" keeps it all polite.

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