Teachers and instructors consider repetition one of the most valuable aids to memorization, especially when learning a new language. Often, students hear, “repeat after me.” But is this phrase correct?
It is correct to say, “Repeat after me.” When someone says “repeat after me,” they are asking you to verbally copy or reiterate what they are saying, word for word. This is a useful tool when teaching languages or other content that is important for you to remember.
To learn more about the meaning of “repeat after me” and why it’s grammatically correct, keep reading.
What Does “Repeat After Me” Mean?
The phrase “repeat after me” is a request you can make when you need someone to copy what you’re going to say. You would do this mainly to assist with learning.
However, you can precede the phrase by “please,” “please repeat after me,” which sounds more polite and frames it as a request rather than a demand.
When you say “repeat after me,” you are asking the person (or people) you’re speaking with to say what you’re saying. This can be for two reasons:
First, you might ask someone to repeat what you’re saying so that they remember it.
Second, in the case of languages, if you repeat what someone says, you’re practicing the necessary sounds and words.
“Repeat after me” is a phrase in the imperative mood. This phrase functions literally, so it means what it says. Let’s break down the three words: “repeat,” “after,” and “me.”
The first word is the verb, “repeat.” The act of repeating is when someone asks you to copy what they are saying or writing (source). If you “repeat” something, you are either doing an action again or restating what the speaker is saying.
“After” is a preposition. You use it to indicate the time period in which something happens.
So, to “repeat after” means to reiterate what someone is saying directly after the speaker has ceased talking.
The last word in this phrase is the noun “me,” which refers to the speaker. Thus, you should copy what the speaker says. If you wanted someone to copy what someone else is saying, you’d rather say “repeat after him/her/(name).”
When you say ”repeat after me,” you’re saying “copy what I’m going to say.”
What Are Imperatives?
Imperatives are what we use when presenting demands. The imperative mood uses imperative verbs to form imperative sentences in English (source).
Imperative sentences typically have an implied subject rather than an explicit one, so they are different from a conventional sentence.
“Repeat after me” is an imperative sentence. Imperative sentences are what we use to give demands, instructions, or requests — think of “put in two teaspoons of sugar” or “sit down.”
If you write an imperative sentence, it will always consist of an imperative verb, such as “repeat” in “repeat after me,” which tells the listener what to do (source).
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Repeat After Me”?
It is grammatically correct to say “repeat after me” because it functions as an imperative sentence, having an implied subject, a verb, and a complete idea. So even though “repeat after me” may not have an explicit subject, it can still function much like a complete sentence.
Still, “repeat after me” doesn’t always stand alone. At times, you’ll find another word before it, such as in these two examples:
- Please repeat after me.
- Repeat after me: mitosis is the process of cell division.
In the first example, the listener has to repeat what the speaker will say in the sentences that follow. In the second example, the words the listener must repeat are in the same sentence.
“Repeat After Me” or “Repeat It After Me”?
Both ”repeat after me” and “repeat it after me” are correct, but it’s more common and concise to use “repeat after me.”
“Repeat it after me” is slightly more restricted. The pronoun “it” makes all the difference because you would use “it” to refer to something someone already mentioned. “It” is a demonstrative pronoun, and you can only understand what it refers to within the same context.
If you’re using “repeat it after me,” ”it” can be confusing to your listener as it refers back to something more specific you’ve previously said. So, unless you specify what you want your listener to repeat, it may be best to stick to “repeat after me.”
To learn more about the pronoun “it” and its various forms, make sure to read over the article “What Is the Plural Form of It?”
How Do You Use “Repeat After Me”?
In general, when you use “repeat after me,” you will state these words and follow with a word, a single sentence, or a longer passage that you want others to repeat.
Just keep in mind your audience. Most people won’t be able to remember an entire paragraph, and for second-language speakers, a sentence shouldn’t be too long to allow for correct repetition.
“Repeat after me” also has various derivatives. For example, we mentioned you could put “please” in front to make the sentence a polite request.
You can also put a pronoun or noun between “repeat” and “after” to make the sentence less general. For example:
- Repeat this sentence after me.
- Repeat these sounds after me.
- Repeat these lyrics after me.
The tone in which you say “repeat after me” is critical. Since it is imperative, the wrong tone can make you sound a bit bossy or too commanding. Therefore, the addition of “please” is generally helpful to express more politeness.
When Can You Use Repeat After Me?
In short, you can use “repeat after me” verbally whenever you want someone to copy what you’ve said. You can use it when the person you are speaking to is unfamiliar with the words or context.
You often see “repeat after me” in religious contexts or educational spaces. You are most likely to hear this phrase in a language classroom where the teacher tries to get students to repeat pronunciation correctly.
You can’t properly use “repeat after me” while writing unless you are writing dialogue. When writing, it’s best to use “copy this text” or something similar.
If you’re writing dialogue, for example, about a teacher telling their class to repeat something, there’s nothing wrong with writing, “She said sternly, ‘Repeat after me.’”
In What Context Can You Use “Repeat After Me”?
You’re most likely to hear “repeat after me” within a classroom or educational context, but you can sometimes use it in other contexts as well.
Repetition allows language learners to practice sounds and sentences, and in other subjects, it helps students remember critical information.
A teacher can tell you the following:
- Repeat after me: “A” is for “apple.”
- Repeat after me: The area of a triangle is half its base multiplied by its height.
You can use “repeat after me” in other contexts — it’s just far less common. For example, a boss may ask you to repeat something you need to remember. Similarly, a religious figure may ask you to repeat a prayer or a set of vows, or you may tell your friend to repeat something they need to remember.
Sometimes, you may be using “repeat after me” rhetorically. This is an informal use that will likely only happen between friends.
Kaycee, repeat after me: just because you like him doesn’t mean you have to marry him.
You aren’t expecting the person to repeat after you in a literal way. But the aim of the sentence is still as advice for whomever you’re talking to. In this case, it creates emphasis, and you are using it for effect.
Using “Repeat After Me” in a Full Sentence
You can use “repeat after me” as part of a full sentence by adding additional information, especially when writing dialogue.
- “Repeat after me,” the music teacher said, “do re mi fa so la ti do.”
- “Peter, repeat after me,” said Mr. Smith. “I must not touch things that aren’t mine.”
- You must repeat after me: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
All three sentences are trying to teach something, but they’re all pertaining to a different topic.
The first sentence is a music teacher asking learners to repeat the different tones/pitches in music. This repetition will help the learners remember the information.
In the second sentence, Mr. Smith uses repetition as a tool for instruction. Think of how certain teachers make their learners write lines. This is similar, just done verbally.
In the third example, the speaker asks someone to repeat after them. This could just be an attempt to teach someone the nursery rhyme “Peter Piper” or a teacher introducing the “p” sound.
You might even be familiar with this example of “repeat after me” in the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In this example, the professor of Dark Arts (Professor Lupin) is instructing his students about how to cast a spell:
Professor Lupin: Now repeat after me — without wands, please — repeat after me, Riddikulus.
Professor Lupin: Very good. A little louder, please, and very clearly. Rid-di-kulus.
Malfoy: [under his breath] This class is ridiculous.
This is a useful example of showing how a teacher may use “repeat after me,” as you can see how the professor makes repetition part of learning.
If you are teaching someone and you use the phrase, you should use it carefully to avoid a condescending tone. This is more important for teenagers and adult students, as they will not respond positively to a condescending teacher and are unlikely to learn well this way.
When Not to Use “Repeat After Me”
Technically, there is no place where using “repeat after me” isn’t permissible. However, it can be repetitive, and, as we’ve said earlier, it can sound condescending or commanding.
A word like “repeat” can also be pretty complicated for children and less experienced second-language speakers. So, for times like these, you may decide to use something besides “repeat after me.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Repeat After Me” ?
In general, you probably want to simplify “repeat after me.” So, here are some substitutions:
- Copy what I say.
- State what I say after me.
- Restate what I say.
- Listen to what I say, and say it aloud after me.
A few other synonyms for “repeat” include “echo,” “reiteration,” and “duplicate.” Other synonyms that have a similar meaning are “reproduce” and “retell.” These words are slightly more nuanced as they allow for space to paraphrase the original phrasing.
Phrases and Idioms
“Repeat after me” and “Please repeat after me” are both phrases. Phrases are groups of words that function as a single grammatical unit. Typically, phrases cannot function as full sentences. However, both of the above can be because they are imperative sentences.
Keep in mind that imperative sentences aren’t idioms since idioms are phrases that have a meaning separate from their literal definition. Idioms also typically cannot stand alone as a sentence, while imperatives can.
Redundancy in English
In English, redundancy is when you say the same thing more than once, and the word redundant means “unnecessary.” So, redundancy isn’t something most would encourage when it comes to writing and speaking.
So you may ask someone to “repeat” after you or to “repeat again,” there’s nothing wrong with that. However, by asking someone to repeat themself again, you are potentially creating a redundancy unless you are deliberately asking them to state the same thing a third time of more.
This article was written for strategyforparents.com.
There is also something known as global redundancy. Global redundancy is when you unnecessarily repeat something throughout a text. When it comes to academic and formal writing, you need to be concise even if a word count compels you otherwise.
For most of us, memorizing the periodic table is a struggle, but knowing every lyric to “The Big Bang Theory” theme song or music is a piece of cake. This is the impact of repetition and why “repeat after me” is something you’ll often hear, especially in learning and education.
Repetition is a valuable tool when learning, whether you’re studying biology, math, or even a new language. That’s why using “repeat after me” as a learning tool is so common.
Remember that “repeat after me” is the correct way to command (or request) someone to copy what you say — it helps with memorization and ensures your listeners hear you precisely.