There are many different reasons why you might need to tell someone that you understand what they are saying.
Perhaps you want to make it clear that you understand the literal meaning of what they have said, for example, when you ask a teacher to explain what a new word means, or when you ask someone for directions in the street.
At other times, you might need to show that you understand someone on a deeper level. That could mean that you understand them intellectually (meaning that their point makes sense to you: you can see why they think something, even if you don’t agree), or that you understand them emotionally (meaning that you understand why they feel a certain way about something).
In these situations, it’s good to mix up your vocabulary so that you don’t just repeat the words “I understand” over and over!
Here are some other terms and phrases that you could use instead.
When You Understand the Literal Meaning:
Sometimes you need a quick way to show that you understand what someone just said to you, without expressing any opinions on this. You can do that by saying:
OK / Alright / Sure
When somebody is explaining something to you, or asking you to do something, replying to them with one of these words is a polite way to show that you are listening and can follow what they are saying.
This is another way of saying “ok, I understood what you said / what you want from me!”
OK, I get it now / That’s clear, thank you.
If you had trouble understanding someone the first time round but now it is clear, these phrases are very useful.
When You Understand Someone’s Opinion:
Fair enough / I see where you’re coming from / I take your point / That makes sense.
These are all polite ways to show that you understand and respect someone’s opinion, without having to say if you agree with them.
Of course / Absolutely.
Use these phrases to show that you not only understand what someone is saying, you also agree with them.
I appreciate why you think that, but…
This is a polite way to show that you understand the person’s point, but you don’t agree with it.
I hear what you’re saying, but…
This is very similar to the above, but by saying ‘I hear’ you show that you are really listening and trying to see things from their point of view, too.
When You Understand Someone’s Feelings:
That’s totally fair / I don’t blame you.
These are both good ways to reassure someone that you understand their feelings and point of view, especially if they are angry or upset about something.
I know what you mean.
This goes a step further by suggesting that you feel the same / have had a similar experience, so you really understand their feelings.
I would feel the same.
This show the person that, even though you haven’t experienced the same thing, you understand their emotions and you would react in the same way if you did.
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