How to express lack of understanding:

When you fail to understand what has been said to you you can use these expressions:

 I beg your pardon?
I beg your pardon, but I don't quite understand.
I'm not quite sure I know what you mean.
I'm not quite sure I follow you.
I don't quite see what you mean.
I'm not sure I got your point.
Sorry, I didn't quite hear what you said.
Sorry, I didn't get your point/idea.
I don't quite see what you're getting at.

 How yo ask for clarification:

When you don't understand what someone has said, you can ask for clarification using the following expressions:
 What do you mean by...?
Do you mean...?
Could you say that again, please?
Could you repeat, please?
Could you clarify that, please?
Would you elaborate on that, please?
Could you be more explicit?
Could you explain what you mean by...?
Could you give us an example?
I wonder if you could say that in a different way.
Could you put it differently, please?
Could you be more specific, please?

 Clarifying one's point or idea:

To clarify your idea you can use the following expressions:
Let me explain that...
Let me explain that in more detail...
Let me put it in another way...
Sorry, let me explain...
In other words...
To say this differently...
To put it differently…
What I wanted to say is that….

Samir is a Moroccan university student at an American University. He is now talking to the foreign student's councellor, Mr. Taylor.
Read the conversation and answer the following question.

Question: Did Mr. Taylor know that burping in Morocco is not considered offensive? How do you know?

Samir: Good morning, Mr. Taylor!
Mr.Taylor: Good morning. Please have a seat. Can I help you?
Samir: Yes, Mr.Taylor. I’d like to talk to you about an embarrassing experience I had this weekend.
Mr. Taylor: An embarrassing experience? What do you mean?
Samir: Well, I was invited by a friend of mine for dinner. His family was really nice and hospitable. But then something happened which made them stare at me.
Mr. Taylor: stare at you? I don’t quite follow you. Could you be more explicit?
Samir: Well, actually, they didn’t seem to like my burping.
Mr.Taylor: Oh my dear, do you mean you burped during the meal? That’s culturally inappropriate.
Samir: What do you mean by culturally inappropriate?
Mr.Taylor: Well, what I’m trying to say is that what you did is not acceptable in our society. It’s even- sorry to say the word – disgusting.
Samir: Oh dear! But I was taught in my family to thank God whenever I burp.
Mr. Taylor: Really? In that case, all you’ve got to do is explain the matter to your friend.
Samir: Thanks, Mr.Taylor
Mr.Taylor: You’re welcome

Reference: Gateway to English 2 Student’s Book P.27.


"Can I use your computer, please?"
"Could I borrow some money from you, please?"
"Do you mind if I turn up the heating?"
"Would you mind if I turned up the heating?"
Speaking tip: Could is more polite than can.
Do you mind if…" is followed by the verb in the present tense, but would you mind if… is followed by the verb in the past tense.
When you're using these two sentences, don't use "please". It's already polite enough!

 Offering to do something for another person:

You can make an offer using a phrase like Can I… ?, Shall I… ?, Would you like me to…?
For example:
"Can I help you?"
"Shall I open the window for you?"
"Would you like another coffee?"
"Would you like me to answer the phone?"
"I'll do the photocopying if you like."
"shall", "can" and "will" are followed by the verb without to.
Shall is particularly British English and is more formal than can. "Would you like…?" is followed either by a noun or by an object pronoun and the verb with to.

 Responding to offers:

These English dialogues show you ways to accept or reject (=refuse/turn down) offers made to you.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, please. I'd like to know what time the train leaves."
"Can I help you?"
"No thanks, I'm just looking." (In a shop.)
"Shall I open the window for you?"
"Yes, please. That would be very kind of you."
"Would you like another coffee?"
"No thanks." Or, "No thank you."
"Would you like another coffee?"
"Yes please, that would be lovely." Or, "Yes please, I'd love one."
"Would you like me to answer the phone?"
"If you wouldn't mind." Or, "If you could."
(Don't answer "Yes, I would", as this sounds like you expect someone to do it for you.)
"I'll do the photocopying if you like."
"It's OK, I can do it." Or, "Don't worry, I'll do it.
"Or, "Thank you, that would be great."


Secretary: Hello, Ultimate Computers. May I help you?
Caller: Yes, this is Jack Kordell from Hunter's Office Supplies. May I speak to Elaine Strong, please?
Secretary: I'm sorry, but she's not in right now.
Caller: Okay, do you know when she'll be back?
Secretary: Uh, yes, she should be here later on this afternoon maybe about 4:30. May I take a message?
Caller: Yes. Ms. Strong sent me a brochure detailing your newest line of laptop computers with a description of other software products, but there wasn't any information about after-sales service.
Secretary: Oh, I'm sorry. Would you like me to fax that to you?
Caller: Yes, but our fax is being repaired at the moment, and it won't be working until around 2:30. Hum . . . could you try sending that information around 3:30? That should give me time to look over the material before I call Ms. Strong, say, around 5:00.
Secretary: Sure. Could I have your name, telephone number, and fax number, please?
Caller: Yes. Jack Kordell and the phone number is 560-1287. And the fax number is 560-1288.
Secretary: Okay. Jack Kordell. Is your name spelled C-o-r-d-e-l?
Caller: No. It's Kordell with a "K" and two "l's." K-o-r-d-e-l-l."
Secretary: All right, Mr. Kordell. And your phone number is 560-1287, and the fax number is 560-1288. Is that correct?
Caller: Yes it is.
Secretary: All right. I'll be sure to send you the fax this afternoon.
Caller: Okay, bye.

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