When you’re first learning Spanish, it can seem like native speakers are speaking at a breakneck pace.
To use a metaphor for understanding spoken Spanish, it might seem like the bus has left without you, and you’re running to catch it, just like you have to play “catch up” when you don’t understand someone.
So, what’s the best way to get someone to repeat themselves? You might need to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish.
How to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish
Here’s a list of useful ways to say you don’t understand something in Spanish.
1. Most literal and straightforward way to say you don’t understand
Spanish phrase: no entiendo
The literal Spanish translation of “I don’t understand” is no entiendo.
The first half of this Spanish phrase uses a negative statement, and you should construct it using the negation no and combine this with the Spanish conjugated verb entiendo.
You could also add the word eso to the end of the phrase no entiendo, giving you the phrase no entiendo eso.
This phrase means “I don’t understand that”, which you can combine with me puede repetir (a phrase which we have also explained on this list).
And, guess what?
You can make different sentences by conjugating the infinitive verb entender.
How do you conjugate the verb entender?
You may want to make a different person the subject of your sentence.
For example, you may want to say, “she doesn’t understand” or “they don’t understand.”
Making someone else the subject of the sentence requires you to conjugate the verb entender in the present tense.
Look at the table below to practice conjugating it:
|Personal Pronoun||Conjugated verb entender||English translation|
|Él, ella, usted||Entiende||He, she, it understands|
|Vosotros||Entendéis||You (all) understand|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||Entienden||They understand|
So, if you wanted to say “she didn’t understand,” you would use the third person present tense form of the infinitive verb entender, entiende, in your sentences.
This would give you no entiende, or no entiende lo que dijiste.
You can also use the phrase no entendí, the past tense of the phrase no entiendo.
No entendí means “I didn’t understand.”
If you’re curious to know how to conjugate entender in the simple past tense, here’s how to do it:
|Personal Pronoun||Conjugated verb entender||English translation|
|Él, ella, usted||Entiendió||He, she, it understood|
|Vosotros||Entendsteis||You (all) understood|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||Entendieron||They understood|
2. The short and simple way
Spanish phrase: ¿cómo?
If you simply misheard a couple of words in the sentence and want to clarify what someone said, one of the most straightforward ways to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish is to say ¿cómo?.
¿Cómo? translates to “what?” in English.
Remember, ¿cómo?, in this context, takes the form of a question.
The fact that it’s a question or interrogative means you have to change the intonation of your voice a little bit to emphasise that you didn’t understand the speaker.
3. Asking someone to repeat themselves
Spanish phrase: ¿me lo puede repetir?
But there may be a time when you don’t understand an entire sentence.
So, what phrase should you use in this scenario?
In this situation, the phrase you’ll need is ¿me lo puede repetir, por favor?
It means “can you repeat it to me, please?”
Keep in mind that there are separate verb conjugations for people you don’t know and people with whom you are friends in Spanish.
When you’re using the phrase ¿me lo puede repetir, por favor? you should use the verb puede when speaking to someone you don’t know since puede is the usted version of this verb.
If you’re speaking to your friend or family member, you should modify the phrase and ask ¿me lo puedes repetir, por favor?, where the verb puedes uses the tú form.
4. How to ask someone to speak more slowly when you don’t understand
Spanish phrase: más lento porfa
If you understood a couple of words but missed the whole meaning of the sentence, you can say más lento, porfa.
Since it contains the colloquial word porfa, you should use this phrase when speaking with friends, but you can modify it if you’re speaking with people you don’t know.
Just say más lento, por favor instead.
5. Saying “I don’t understand” in Spanish when you didn’t understand any words
Spanish phrase: ¿qué dijiste?
What if there’s a time when you simply don’t understand any words someone has said?
We’ve all been there. You may want to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish in contexts like these.
If you want to vary your vocabulary and avoid saying no entiendo all the time, you can also say ¿qué dijiste? which means, “what did you say?”
If you’re in a group of Spanish speakers and want to ask a friend what someone else said, it’s handy to know how to conjugate the verb decir.
When you know how to conjugate it, you can make new sentences like ¿qué dijo? or ¿qué dijisteis?, which mean “what did he/she say?” and “what did you all say?” respectively.
Let’s quickly examine how to conjugate the verb decir in the simple past so you can form a few more sentences and build your vocabulary
|Personal Pronoun||Verb decir (simple past tense)||English translation|
|Él, ella, usted||Dijo||He, she, it said|
|Vosotros||Dijistéis||You (all) said|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||Dijeron||They said|
6. Asking for an example, when you want to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish
Spanish phrase: ¿me das un ejemplo?
Sometimes, it takes a simple example to help you understand what someone is discussing.
If you’re speaking with friends, you can use the question ¿me das un ejemplo? to get someone to clarify what they mean.
Alternatively, you might be working in a Spanish-speaking country and need an example of how to complete a task.
In this case, you will need to modify the verb dar to ask the same question in this formal situation.
Using the usted version is important as it shows respect.
The usted version of the sentence is ¿me da un ejemplo por favor?
7. Asking for clarification when someone asks you a question
Spanish phrase: no entendí su pregunta
What if someone has asked you a complex question and you don’t know what they asked?
Using the phrase no entendí su pregunta is how you could respond.
As you can see, you can use the past tense of the verb entender and say “I didn’t understand your question,” but you can also say no entiendo su pregunta, which means “I don’t understand your question”.
Take note that no entendí su pregunta is a phrase in the formal, usted version.
Use this sentence if you are speaking to someone you don’t know.
If you want to say “I didn’t understand your question” to someone you know well, modify the possessive pronoun and use tu – no entendí tu pregunta.
8. An alternative way to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish
Spanish phrase: otra vez
A shorter, more succinct way to say ¿me lo puedes repetir, por favor? is to use the phrase otra vez.
Otra vez literally means “another time”, but a better definition of this phrase is “again”.
You can use otra vez when speaking with friends or colleagues to quickly tell them that you didn’t understand what they were saying.
Another version of otra vez is slightly longer and probably best reserved for formal situations. You can say una vez más, or una vez más, por favor.
If someone is teaching you Spanish in a Spanish course and you don’t understand their explanation, use this phrase to request that they explain it again. Otra vez más means “one more time”.
9. How to say “it’s not clear to me” in Spanish
Spanish phrase: no me queda claro lo que dijiste justo ahora
If you are able to follow what someone was talking about up until a certain point, but were unable to understand one sentence, you might say no me queda claro lo que dijiste justo ahora.
This phrase means “I’m not clear what you said just now.”
Remember that when you are speaking to someone who you don’t know, you need to use the usted version of the verb decir.
And since this sentence is in the past tense, you would use the verb dijo.
Don’t just nod and pretend you get it
It’s frustrating when you can’t understand what someone has said in another language, but don’t resort to nodding along when you don’t understand.
Telling the other person that you don’t understand is how you improve.
Getting them to either slow down or repeat what they’ve said will help you progress.
Use the phrases listed in this article to develop your understanding of spoken Spanish by asking for clarity.
Which phrases do you use to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish?
Share your contribution below!