I've generally always asked fast-talking native French speakers to repeat something with the request Pourriez-vous le répéter ?

However, while this does get the point across, in English this would translate literally to "Could you repeat it?" which isn't at all idiomatic. I'm not sure if that's how it sounds in French, too, and whether there's a way to get closer to the more natural "Could you repeat that?" or "Could you say that again?"

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    Since you have so many options from the accepted answer, I'd like to let you know that pardon ? and comment ? are the most globally used ones.
    – oldergod
    Dec 25, 2015 at 0:16

3 Answers 3

  • Plait-il ? / Plaît-il ? formal, outdated (or nowadays often humorous, ironical or sarcastic)
  • Pourriez-vous répéter [, s'il vous plait (or plaît)] ? is very formal
  • Pouvez-vous répéter [, s'il vous plait (or plaît)] ? is formal

Both are more written French than casual spoken one.

As you are asking about idiomatic ways, be prepared to hear, from formal to very unformal/broken:

  • Vous dites ? formal
  • Je vous demande pardon ? formal
  • Vous pouvez répéter ? common
  • Tu peux répéter ? to a friend/colleague/family member/...
  • Pardon ? (turning one ear toward the speaker)
  • Comment ? (idem)
  • Qu'est-ce que tu as dit ?
  • Qu'est-ce que t'as dit ?
  • Qu'est-ce t'as dit ? pronounced "kaystahdee" \kɛstadi\
  • T'as dit quoi [là] ?
  • Quoi ?
  • Hein ?
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    Et en langage vraiment soutenu : plaît-il ? src Dec 23, 2015 at 10:52
  • @Put12co22mer2 Merci, ajouté.
    – jlliagre
    Dec 23, 2015 at 14:07
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    @Aerovistae That's the same plait, also in s'il vous plait. Its circumflex is optional since the 1990 adjustments. See page 13 academie-francaise.fr/sites/academie-francaise.fr/files/…
    – jlliagre
    Dec 23, 2015 at 23:30
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    Hello @Gilles, oui en français (moderne ?) courant, cette expression n'est quasi jamais utilisée, quoique dans quelques familles bourgeoises je peux vous assurer qu'elle l'est (et ailleurs peut-être, car étant moi même français vivant en France, je ne saurais dire si tous les français parlent le même français que le mien). Mais bon, peut-être que dans votre région elle sera comprise comme une non adhésion aux pensées de votre interlocuteur, mais pas dans la mienne. Cordialement. Dec 24, 2015 at 14:03
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    je vous demande pardon - très usité, ainsi que pardon, certainement les deux plus utilisés en dehors des tournures familières et de la forme complète "pourriez-vous ..." ? Dec 25, 2015 at 11:07

Usually I implied my asking like this : (common)

  • Je n'ai pas entendu. (I didn't hear)
  • Je n'ai pas compris. (I didn't understand)

So with common sens, the interlocutor repeats or rewords.


In an oral conversation, the most idiomatic way to express that you didn't understand something is to say « Pardon ? » [paʁ.dɔ̃], with a rising tone of voice (the rising tone is the way to convey a question in French). Merely saying that in a conversation conveys “I didn't understand what you just said”, and will usually cause the person who just spoke to repeat.

If you want to explicitly ask for repetition, you can ask “Pardon ? Pouvez-vous répéter ?” [pu.ve.vu.ʁe.pe.te] (with a rising tone of voice for both sentences). If it's someone you say tu to, the sentence is “Peux-tu répéter ?” [pø.ty.ʁe.pe.te].

Additional sentences may be useful in this context.

Pardon ? Pouvez-vous répéter plus lentement ?   (Please repeat more slowly.)
Pardon ? Je n'ai pas compris le mot après […].   (I'm sorry, I didn't understand the word after […])
Je suis désolé, je ne comprends pas.   (I'm sorry, I don't understand.)

  • Do you hear the subject inversion often ? I think this is the best proposal apart from that little detail: Pardon ? Vous pouvez répéter ?
    – GAM PUB
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:07
  • @GAMPUB This question is of primary interest to non-fluent speakers. Non-fluent speakers should always err on the side of formality. Furthermore, when you want to get people to talk to you in a more comprehensible way, it's best to orient the conversation level towards textbook grammar rather than colloquialisms. So I recommend against “Vous pouvez répéter ?” here. Dec 24, 2015 at 18:37
  • As you wish. This is exactly the type of foreign French that sounds super weird to me and usually gets a blank stare.
    – GAM PUB
    Dec 24, 2015 at 22:01
  • These conversations are as useful to me as the answer itself. Both viewpoints noted. I often will say something one way, and if I get a blank stare for one reason or another, I try saying it a different way. It's a process! Dec 24, 2015 at 22:41
  • "Pardon ?" is also used for disagreement because you don't like the sentence. Dec 25, 2015 at 8:13

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