Which form is more polite and more acceptable for correspondence:

For example I am do not understand something and want to get more information about it.

Could you please explain...


Could you please clarify...

or maybe something else?

  • Either. The second makes you sound more informed – mplungjan Sep 24 '14 at 13:24
  • If it's not the subject that's not being understood, but the explanation of it (that is, the misunderstanding is in the delivery), "could you rephrase that?" (meaning to say it in another way) is appropriate. – Core Xii Sep 24 '14 at 19:34

Both are fine options, but if we're being pedantic, they mean slightly different things.

Asking somebody to explain something implies that you don't know anything about the topic and want the person to teach you.

Asking somebody to clarify something implies that you understand the broad strokes but want more detail about a particular topic.

Of course, that's a distinction that can probably be blurred depending on exactly how you're using the words, but it might be useful to understand that they don't mean exactly the same thing. There are other words you might use in this case as well. A thesaurus is your friend here.


Which form is more polite and more acceptable for correspondence?

Both of them are fine in any conversation of an official nature, but are not exclusively limited to just the two. For instance you may use:

  • May I inquire about something?
  • Could you educate me upon something?
  • Is it possible to know (more) about something?

In a conversation you may use,

  • Would you mind telling me about something?

Both are polite colloquial usage. In English, the respondent would immediately understand that you need more than a simple "yes" or "no" answer.

protected by MetaEd Sep 5 '18 at 21:07

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