I don’t understand, do you?
Don’t Pretend to Understand
Many English learners say “OK” even when they don’t understand. If you don’t understand directions, instructions, suggestions, or questions, use one of these phrases:
- Could you repeat that?
- Sorry, what’s your question?
- Sorry, I didn’t catch that.
- I missed that.
- Would you mind repeating that?
- Could you slow down, please? My English is not that strong.
- Could you run that by me again?
- I don’t get it. (I don’t understand how to do it.)
- Would you mind spelling that for me?
- I’m confused.
- Sorry, I still didn’t catch that. (use after a repeated statement or question)
- That went right over my head. (the language or concept was too difficult)
- You lost me.(informal)
- Say again? (very informal)
Excuses you can use:
Don’t Assume they Understand you
Is the bus driver looking at you funny? Does the waitress look puzzled? Native English listeners sometimes pretend to understand too! Here are some phrases to use if you think your response, question, or statement was not understood:
- Did you catch that?
- Does that make sense?
- Let me try that again…
- Let me clarify…
- What I mean is…
- That’s not what I meant.
- Let me put it a different way.
- Sorry, my pronunciation may not be correct.
Gestures to Show you (or they) Don’t Understand:
Tip: Don’t “nod” your head up and down and smile when you don’t understand. This will make others think you do understand. (Native speakers do this too.)
Sometimes native speakers speak very quickly. This makes it difficult for learners to “catch” a question or statement. Sometimes learners use improper pronunciation. This makes it difficult for native English speakers to understand what is being said. This video offers an important tip that can improve how well others understand you:
Tara Benwell is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry.