Asking for clarifications & repeats

In Cantonese

Hi, today I want to talk about some sentences and phrases you can use to ask for clarifications or provide clarification. I know this topic is especially important, as a Cantonese learner, there will be many occasions where you will need someone to repeat, speak up, say it slower or clarify what they mean. Because, of course, it happens all the time to Cantonese seniors as well who can’t comprehend the English language too well, but they keep saying yes to whatever the person is saying, so the person assumes they understand. For sure, that’s a situation we would want to avoid because you might miss important details, and also misunderstand the entire situation altogether. So let’s talk about how we can ask for clarifications in Cantonese today.

We want to start with the basics, I believe a lot of you already know how to express that you can’t understand. Let’s go over it together again.

Expressing lack of understanding

The easiest way:


Excuse me, I don’t understand.


Sorry I don’t understand.

明[ming4] means understand, short for 明[ming4]白[baak6], of course you are also welcome to say


Excuse me, I don’t understand.


Sorry I don’t understand.

Exactly the same meaning. Here, 唔[m4]好[hou2]意[yi3]思[si3] excuse me and 對[deui3]唔[m4]住[jyu6] sorry are interchangeable. So you can say it either way, it doesn’t matter. Or in a more formal proper way you can say,


Excuse me, I am not comprehending.


Sorry, I am not comprehending.

理[lei5]解[gaai2] means understand or comprehend. Or

唔[m4]好[hou2]意[yi3]思[si3], 我[ngo5]唔[m4]明[ming4]係[hai6]咩[me1]意[yi3]思[si1]呀[a3]。

Excuse me, I don’t understand what that means.

對[deui3]唔[m4]住[jyu6],我[ngo5]唔[m4]明[ming4]係[hai6]咩[me1]意[yi3]思[si1]呀[a3]。 Sorry, I don’t understand what that means.



Sorry, I am not following.

唔[m4]好[hou2]意[yi3]思[si3], 我[ngo5]跟[gan1]唔[m4]到[dou2]啊[a1]。

Excuse me, I am not following.

Or with Hong Kong Hybrid Canto,


Sorry, I am not following.


Excuse me, I am not following.

** Seniors might not understand Hybrid Canto.

Asking for repeat

**add 唔[m4]該[goi1] (please/ thank you), at the beginning or at the end to make it sound more polite.

The most simple and the least polite way:


What’s that?


What did you say?

Again 咩[me1] here means what, and 話[wa6/wa2] can mean language or as a verb to say. So literally what language or say what? Or instead you can say


Say it one more time.

Literal: you say more time.


Say it one more time.

Literal: you say more one time.

Or starting the question with Can you...


Can you say it one more time?

Literally: you can or cannot say more one time?

講[gong2] means say, and 多[do1] is more and 次[chi3] means time, it’s the unit classifier for counting how many times something needs to be done or is done.


Repeat it again.


Repeat it one more time.


Can you repeat it one more time.?

重[chung4]複[fuk1] means to repeat.

Asking for clarifications


What does it mean?

literally : Is what meaning?

意[yi3]思[si1] means meaning.


Meaning what?

即[jik1]係[hai6] means “that means” or vaguely can be interpreted as “in other words”. 點[dim2] here when used in a question means “what”.


That means what?

Literal: That means what resolution?

點[dim2]解[gaai2] here doesn’t mean why. 點[dim2]解[gaai2] here can be broken down understood as 點[dim2] meaning what, 解[gaai2] means resolve or resolution, so literally what is the resolution? But really it just means “So what does that mean”


So meaning what?

Again 咩[me1] means what.


I don’t understand, can you tell me more?

Literal: I don’t understand, you can or cannot talk more?


Can you tell me a little more?

Literal: you can or cannot say more a little for me to hear?

講[gong2]多[do1]少[siu2]少[siu2/siu3] means tell me a little more. For example, if you want to say eat a little more, 食[sik6]多[do1]少[siu2]少[siu2/siu3], or do a little more 做[jou6]多[do1]少[siu2]少[siu2/siu3].

俾[bei2]我[ngo5]聽[teng1/ting1] means for me to listen or hear, this bit is extra information, you can omit this because the meaning won’t be changed. Same thing with the example earlier, you can also say


I don’t understand, can you tell me more?

Literal: I don’t understand, you can or cannot talk more for me to hear?

Sometimes you simply just cannot understand the way that a person is explaining the information to you, so you might want to ask them to say it in another way.


Can you tell me in a different way one more time?

Literal: you can or cannot use a second method to talk one more time?

方[fong1]法[faat3] means method. 第[dai6]二[yi6]個[go3]方[fong1]法[faat3] means a second method. 第[dai6] is used in front of a number when you are counting ordinal numbers such as, first, second, third, fourth etc. Normally when you are just saying 3 people in Cantonese it is 三[saam1]個[go3]人[yan4], but if you wanted to say the third person, in Cantonese it is 第[dai6]三[saam1]個[go3]人[yan4]. Only when you are doing ordinal number you will need to add 第[dai6] in front of the number, I can explain further in another episode,


Can you explain it to me in another way one more time?

Literal: you can or cannot use another method again to explain one more time?


Can you explain that to me?

Literal: you can or cannot explain for me to hear?


Can you elaborate further?

Literal: you can or cannot again explain more in detail?

解[gaai2]釋[sik1] means explain or an explanation. 詳[cheung4]盡[jeun6] means detailed, thorough, comprehensive etc.

Asking for examples to help clarify


For example?

例[lai6]如[yu4] simply means for example.


Can you give me an example?

比[bei2]喻[yu6] means an allegory or a metaphor or comparison or a figure of speech. So you are asking the person to give you an example as a comparison to help clarify what they are saying.


Any examples?

例[lai6]子[ji2] is an example. But 例[lai6]如[yu4] just now is for example, so just a slight difference but don’t confuse the 2 terms. 例[lai6]子[ji2] is an example. 例[lai6]如[yu4] is for example

Requesting to slow down, quicken or speak up


Can you speak louder?

Literal: you can or cannot talk louder?

大[daai6]聲[seng1] is loud. Again 啲[di1] is the -er, the comparative. So 大[daai6]聲[seng1]啲[di1] is louder.


Can you speak slower?


Can you speak faster?

Asking for meaning of a certain word/ words

Apple 係[hai6]咩[me1]意[yi3]思[si1]呀[a3]?

What does apple mean?


蘋[ping4]果[gwo2] 係[hai6]咩[me1]意[yi3]思[si1]呀[a3]?

What does apple mean?

Apple 係[hai6]點[dim2]解[gaai2]呀[a3]?

What does apple mean?

Apple 係[hai6]咩[me1]啊[a1]?

What is apple?

Confirming that you understand


The apple that you are referring to, meaning the fruit?

Literally: you talk of this apple, meaning is it the fruit?

意[yi3]思[si1] means meaning. And 即[jik1]係[hai6] means “that means” “that is” “in other word”. 水[seui2]果[gwo2] means fruit. So the sentence structure is,


The X that you are referring to, meaning Y?

Another example,


The clothes that you are referring to, meaning the clothes that people wear?

Sometimes when you need to clarify what they mean because in Cantonese we tend to have a lot of homophones, and without knowing the context it is hard for people to know what they are referring to, so that when we will need to clarify.

The English example is,

The “son” that you are referring to, is it the "son" as in the "son" of a mother or the "sun" as in the "sun" and the moon?

Similarly in Cantonese,


The “sarm” that you are referring to, meaning the clothes that people wear or the number 3?

定[ding6]係[hai6] means or. 數[sou3]目[muk6]字[ji6] means number, or you can say for short 數[sou3]字[ji6], exactly the same thing.

係[hai6]咪[mai6]即[jik1]係[hai6]話[wa6],你[nei5]哋[dei6]冇[mou5]一[yat1]蚊[man1]一[yat1]個[go3]蘋[ping4]果[gwo2]剩[jing6]係[hai6]得[dak1]$100 一[yat1]個[go3]蘋[ping4]果[gwo2]啊[a1]?

So meaning, you don’t have $1 an apple and only have $100 an apple?

一[yat1]蚊[man1] is a dollar. 蚊[man1] is the dollar unit, so 100 蚊[man1] is $100. 剩[jing6]係[hai6] means only.

Expressing understanding


I understand, thank you so much!


I now understand, thank you so much!

哦[ngo4]。多[do1]謝[je6]你[nei5]解[gaai2]釋[sik1]俾[bei2]我[ngo5]聽[teng1/ting1]啊[a1]。 Oh I see, thanks for explaining it to me.

** 俾[bei2]我[ngo5]聽[teng1/ting1] for me to hear can be omitted because the meaning remains unchanged.