The top 12 professional ways to say you don’t understand in English

Culture cuppa the top 12 professional ways to say you dont understand in english

You sit there and hold your breath. The time ticks on.

They have just said something important, but you did not quite understand.

It might have been the English phrase they used, the way they said it, you are not used to their accent, the connection or the background noise.

But under no circumstances do you want to say you did not understand them. You feel embarrassed, uncomfortable and exposed about your English skills.

So what do you do?

My international clients who speak English as a 2nd+ language want to sound smart, professional and natural in their business conversations, no matter what comes up. They want to be more confident in successfully navigating through challenging situations such as these.

So today I am sharing my top 12 professional ways to say you don’t understand in English, so you can react in the moment and feel in control.

The first thing to remember is that you have key skills and competencies which are important for your role. If you are prepared for the meeting, then you should feel confident and believe in yourself and your skills.

Be aware of your body language before you react. Even if your brain is starting to race and you doubt yourself, stay present in the moment. Keep focused on the person, maintain appropriate eye contact and before you say anything, breathe.

The important point is to have 2-3 different ways to express yourself, so you can vary your language and still sound natural. Choose your favourite English phrases from below and learn these for future use.

Top tip: write them on a sticky note to place by your camera for online, or in your notepad for face-to-face meetings.

  1. Would you mind just repeating the question?

  2. Could you just clarify your question for me?

  3. So what you are saying is……..

  4. If I understand correctly, you think that….

  5. So just to confirm I understood…..

  6. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you very well, could you speak a little louder/ speak up, please?

  7. I didn’t quite catch that, but I think you were asking about….?

  8. Could you run that question past me again, please?

  9. When you say “……..”, can you confirm what you mean? (when clarifying a specific word or phrase)

  10. Could I pick up with you after the meeting to discuss this in more detail? (you may find it easier to understand the person in a 1 to 1 setting, if you are a large group).

  11. Sorry, I’m not quite sure of your question. Are you asking me if …..?

  12. Sorry, I don’t follow, would you mind rephrasing the question?

Which ones are most useful to you? Email me and let me know, I always love to hear your feedback and know what is working for you.

If you feel you want personal feedback on your Business English skills to understand where you are currently and your gaps to your goals, let’s set up a time for your English Communication Evaluation. Find out more here.

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Cultural Intelligence certified facilitator
Cultural Intelligence certified facilitator 2
mybrain mind master practitioner
global chamber
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