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Is It Correct to Say “Repeat Again”?

Are you concerned that using phrases like “repeat again” is redundant? Can we acceptably use this phrase?

“Repeat” means “to do/say again,” so it’s normally unnecessary to add the word “again.” Still, there are cases where it’s acceptable. For example, you could say, “Repeat the paragraph again,” implying the addressee has said the paragraph once, repeated it at least one other time, and you are asking them to repeat it once more.

The simpler the sentence is, the more natural it sounds. In most cases, taking away the word “again” would improve the quality of your writing and speech. If you would like to break the habit of using any extra words, continue reading this article.

What Does “Repeat Again” Mean?

The word “repeat” is a verb that means “to say/write again” (source), whereas “again” is an adverb that means “one more time” (source). Thus, using the imperative “Repeat again” tells someone to restate something an additional time.

As you can see, using the adverb “again” can be redundant in other circumstances since the definition of “repeat” includes “again.”

It can be a tad confusing, especially if you don’t know the specific functions of verbs and adverbs. Verbs are action words, and adverbs are descriptive words. Verbs state the action performed by a noun, while adverbs often provide more information about how someone or something performed that action.

You should use “repeat” in sentences that suggest that someone perform an entire process again. Actions can repeat once or repeat more times. For example, the instructions on a shampoo bottle are “Wet hair, apply shampoo, rinse, and repeat.”

Whereas, we can often be more precise by using the adverb “again” with other expressions, as in “you need to do step three again.”

For more on comparative definitions like these, check out “Start or Begin: Differences and Usage.“ If you need more practice with using adverbs correctly, check out “Can You Use ‘Yet’ With ‘Didn’t’?

Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Repeat Again”?

It is grammatically correct to say “Repeat again” when you are asking somebody to repeat a word or sentence once more after they have said it twice already. More often, you will see the pronoun “that” between the words, but you might hear “Repeat again” as a simple imperative.

If they have not previously said it twice or more, the phrase is redundant and incorrect. When we use a redundant phrase, we use two or more words that mean the same thing.

Is Repeat Again Redundant?

“Can you please repeat that again?” is only redundant when a person asks someone to repeat something they have only stated once since it means to do or say something again. Therefore, if someone has only said or done something one time, you should only use the verb “repeat.”

You do not need to say, “Would you repeat that again, please?” when you need someone to repeat something just once. Instead, you can just say, “Would you repeat that, please?” 

However, there is no need to omit the word “again” if you want somebody to repeat something they have already repeated at least once. Instead, you can say, “Please repeat that again.”

Similarly, a teacher might use the imperative “Repeat” when a young child finishes reading a word or a paragraph. If the child needs to do it a second or a third time, the teacher would say, “Repeat this sentence again.”

How Do You Use “Repeat Again”?

You can use “Repeat again” as a standalone imperative or as part of a larger sentence. For example, if you’re a teacher, you might use “Repeat again” to encourage memorizing something. “Repeat again” can also be helpful when you need more clarification.

For example, have you faced an awkward situation when you missed or misunderstood what someone said? What about when you asked them to repeat what they’ve said a couple of times, but you still don’t understand what they said?

When Can You Use “Repeat Again”?

“Repeat again” is the right phrase for situations where you may have misunderstood something someone said, or an instructor may tell a pupil to repeat something another time. 

In most circumstances, asking someone to repeat something will tell your listener that you didn’t fully catch what they said the first time. However, if they only stated something one time, it would be incorrect to say “repeat again.”

Common Reasons You Might Ask Someone to Repeat Something

There might be any number of factors that might cause an English-language learner to ask for someone to repeat something:

Contractions: You are not familiar with the shortened or contracted sounds. For instance, some native speakers say “should have” as “shoulda.”

Pronunciation: Some individuals have strong accents or neurological conditions. For example, cerebral palsy affects a person’s speech, and some English dialects, like Welsh, can be difficult for learners to understand.

Vocabulary:  It is either an unfamiliar or slang word you haven’t heard before. For instance, you might encounter slang words like “dope,” “lit,” and “OMG.”

Pace: The speaker is talking too fast or too slow.

Noise: There might be too much background or surrounding noise

Asking Someone Politely to Repeat Something 

Some might think that it’s more like a command if you don’t phrase it correctly, though. It’s always better to add words like “please,” “sorry,” “excuse me,” etc. Just saying “Repeat that again” is not the best way to ask someone to repeat what they have said. 

Rephrasing it as a question such as “Sorry, would you repeat that?” would tell the person it’s not their fault that you don’t understand them and you are sincerely sorry for not catching it all the first time. 

Thus, you should ask a question, such as “Would you please repeat that again?” or “Would you please say that again?” 

“Can,” “Could,” or “Would You Repeat That”?

The difference between “can” and “could” is that “could” is the conditional version of “can, though they both mean “to be able.”

For example, “Can you ____?” is short for “Are you able to ____?”  In contrast, “Could you ____?” is short for “Would you be able to ____?”  Therefore, “could” refers to a hypothetical situation, while “can” refers to an actual one. 

For example, somebody might ask you this question: “How many seashells did sally sell by the seashore?”

If you did not hear the question correctly, and you said, “Can you please repeat that again?” the person might take offense if they have a speech impediment. They might think that you’re questioning their ability to repeat what they said.

In contrast, the request “Could you please repeat that again?” slightly softens the tone. However, using “would,” the past tense of “will,” instead alters the meaning to “Are you willing to repeat that again,” making it the better question.

Using “Repeat Again” in a Full Sentence

It is acceptable to use phrases or sentence fragments in daily conversation. However, it is more respectable and professional to speak in full sentences. 

Here are a few example sentences:  

  • I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand you. Would you repeat that, please?
  • Sorry, I didn’t catch all of what you said. Could you repeat that again?
  • Could you repeat what you just said for me? I didn’t hear you.
  • Could you say that again for me, please? I didn’t get all of it.
  • I still didn’t get it. Could you say it differently?
  • Could you say that one more time?

Using “Repeat Again” in Sequence

Let’s go over a sample conversation so you can gain a better grasp of the proper sequence to use “repeat again.”

Person 1: Which of Newton’s Laws states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction?”

Person 2: Would you repeat the question, please? 

“Repeat again” would be wrong here because Person 2 just needs Person 1 to repeat the question once.

Person 1: Which of Newton’s Laws states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction?”

Person 2: Would you mind repeating that again?

Since it’s the second time that Person 2 asked, “repeat again” is acceptable.

Person 1: Which of Newton’s Laws states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction?”

In What Context Can You Use “Repeat Again”?

On its own, this is an expression you are most likely to hear from a teacher trying to promote rote memorization. This imperative carries a sense of authority with it. Otherwise, you would normally use a pronoun like “that” in-between.

It is best to avoid using “repeat again” in business or academic writing, as it can come across as condescending. 

The following dialogue illustrates an example of using another pronoun between these words. In this case, it is a mother scolding her son.

“You have 10 more minutes of screen time,” Peter’s mom yelled from the kitchen. 

“Okay!” Peter answered.

The 10 minutes felt like 10 seconds. Peter was about to pass level 10 finally when his mom shouted again.

“Wrap it up!”

“Can I have five more minutes?” he begged.

“No. You have homework to do,” his mom responded.

“I am about to this level, though…please!”

Peter heard her shut the dishwasher and come towards the hallway.

‘Don’t make me repeat myself again, Peter! It better be off when I get in there.” 

“But mom!”

“Turn it off!”

What Can You Use Instead of Repeat Again?

If you are concerned that “Repeat again” would come off as too condescending, there are plenty of other phrases you can use, such as “Excuse me?” or What’s that?” Here are some simple and polite expressions you can use to ask someone when you need them to repeat themselves (source):

  • Excuse me?
  • I beg your pardon?
  • Come again?
  • What’s that?
  • I didn’t get that.
  • I’m sorry.
  • Run that by me again.

Background noise or other loud distractions can prevent you from fully understanding someone. Here are some phrases you can use:

  • What did you say?
  • Sorry, I still didn’t hear you.
  • Could you speak up? 
  • I’m sorry I could not hear you. 
  • Sorry, could you speak up, please?
  • Speak louder, please?
  • I’m hard of hearing.

If you understand someone but hear a word that you have never heard before, respond with:

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t know that word. What does it mean?
  • Can you repeat that word? 
  • Could you tell me what _________ means? 
  • Did you just say ______?
  • Could you tell me what it means?
  • Please pronounce it differently.

If you need a person to talk slower, you might use the following:

  • I’m still learning English, so it would help if you could speak just a little slower.
  • Sorry, could you speak more slowly, please?
  • Sorry, I can’t understand what you are saying. 
  • Could you speak more slowly for me?
  • Can you say it in another way, please?

Many consider the following expressions to be rude. However, they are still acceptable. Just remember not to use them in any formal or professional settings:

  • What?
  • Huh? 
  • Eh?
  • You what?
Image by Brett Jordan via Pexels

Redundancy in English

Redundancy is the unnecessary repetition of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or ideas (source). Many people are guilty of redundancy, especially in their daily conversations, and they use two words or more together that mean the same thing.

An example would be the words “adequate enough.” Something is also redundant when a modifier’s meaning is contained in the word it modifies, such as “merge together” or “early beginnings.”  If it is a phrase, it’s a pleonasm — a phrase that repeats itself (source).

How Redundancy Affects Writing

The authors of Elements of Style, William Strunk and E. B. White, advise us to treat sentences and paragraphs as essential parts of a machine or a work of art. Each part should have a purposeful meaning. If one part doesn’t fit properly, we must remove or replace it. Otherwise, the whole system or message would be damaged (19).

An article on “Eleminating Words” from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) features many redundant pairs that imply each other in such ways. We’ve listed a few of these below (source):

  • basic fundamentals
  • end result
  • final outcome
  • future plans
  • important essentials
  • longer in length
  • past history/memories
  • shorter in length
  • sudden crisis
  • terrible tragedy
  • true facts
  • various differences 

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Shortening these pairs to a single word is one way to improve concision and clarity.

The shorter versions are easier to read and convey the same message more effectively.

Final Thoughts 

“Repeat again” is not redundant in and of itself since we can use it effectively to ask someone to restate something once more. However, it is incorrect to use this phrase if someone has only stated something once.

Additionally, this phrase can come across as very bossy on its own as it is something you would expect to hear from an instructor or someone in a position of authority. In more polite forms, you are more likely to see a noun or pronoun in between, as in “Would you please repeat that again?”