1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

Sorry?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by shalihalfa, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. shalihalfa Junior Member

    Polish
    Hi!

    I wonder which is the best expression to use when you didn't hear someone and you want them to repeat what they had said.

    I know one can say "What?" or "Pardon me?" but the former seems to me a bit impolite and the latter very official. Is there any neutral and short way of saying this? Something shorter than "I'm sorry I didn't hear you. Could you repeat that please?"

    Is it possible to say just "Sorry?"


    Thank you in advance for your help. :)

    All the best,
    shalihalfa
     
  2. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    I often use Sorry? in that exact way.;)

    I'd avoid using "What?" , unless you're speaking to someone you know very well (although as a matter of fact I personally can't say it even to my mother, as she objects to it;)), as it's considered impolite, as you say .:)
     
  3. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    Your tone of voice has a great effect on how people perceive your words, shalihalfa, and a simple "What did you say?" doesn't sound rude if your tone of voice doesn't sound too demanding or bossy. Your last version does seem like a lot of trouble for a simple request. You could just use the last part if you want to shorten it: Could you please repeat that?

    Edit: I'd probably also understand london calling's "Sorry?" in a conversation. If I didn't, I'd ask her why she was sorry.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  4. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    "Sorry," in my experience, is predominantly a British way of saying "excuse me, I didn't hear you."

    (Although I seem to have adopted it as a result of my time in London :))
     
  5. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    Do you mean me, when you say Loob? Who's Loob?:)

    I think Sorry? in this context is a very British thing. Indeed, it is so British that here in Italy, where I've lived for over 30 years, when they want to pull our (British) legs, they say..... "Sorry?":)

    PS My elderly dad, who's getting very deaf, says it all the time...;)
     
  6. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    I thought your comment was made by Loob, another member, for some reason. I've already edited the reply.
     
  7. shalihalfa Junior Member

    Polish
    Thank you all! :)

    To sum up, in the UK I can use it freely while in the US it's safer to say: "could you please repeat that?"
     
  8. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    I do think "sorry?" might not be understood over here, shalihalfa. There are many short ways to ask somebody to repeat something. I often use "What was that?" or "What did you say?"
     
  9. shalihalfa Junior Member

    Polish
    Understood. ;)

    Thank you, owlman5, to make it all perfectly clear. :)
     
  10. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Spanish
  11. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I've also heard this used by Americans and may have used it myself, although it's doubtless less common here than in the UK.
     
  12. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    When I was-ahem-in my prime, in the part of England I grew up in, "pardon?" was considered rather "common" or lower-class, whereas all my middle-class friends used "what?" For this reason I have always been in the habit of saying "sorry?" to everyone since it offends no-one.
     
  13. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    How odd, it was quite the opposite when I was in my prime :) in London.:) At school I was forever being teased about my "posh" accent: if I'd said Pardon? instead of What? (pronounced Whaaaa?:D) I don't think it would have improved matters.:)
     
  14. shalihalfa Junior Member

    Polish
    How wonderful, london calling! 'Posh' was the only word from a video on YouTube that I couldn't understand. Now, I understand everything! Can you see? You help people without them knowing. Thank you! :)
     
  15. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    I personally say "Say again?" (the result of Navy training), but I've certainly heard other people say "Sorry?" (as well as "Pardon?" and "Huh?").
     
  16. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    'Say again?' is probably more AmE? I might occasionally say 'Come again?', but I normally say 'Sorry?' If necessary, this could be expanded to, 'I'm sorry - I didn't get that.'
     
  17. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    "Say again?" is Navy, not standard AE. (When two people are talking on the phones on board ship, it's the only acceptable way to request a repeat.) I used to say "Come again?" all the time, but I don't think I've heard anyone say that since the '70s (or maybe early '80s).
     
  18. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    "Sorry?" when you want someone to repeat something is extremely common here in Canada. Then again, we also say "sorry" when someone bumps into us or steps on our foot (and the bumper or stepper simultaneously says "sorry!").:)
     
  19. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    Aha! that was a different "what?"; the low-class one. "Pardon?" maybe I should have said was "pseudo-genteel" and the middle-class "What?" was barked out with a very clear-cut "t" at the end. The abruptness was what made it sound rude to those accustomed to a polite "Pardon?"
     

Share This Page