Types of repair

There are many ways in which a conversation can break down, and as a result there are many types of repair. From a linguistic point of view, here are some of the most common triggers of a repair pattern. The response to each type will depend on content and use case.


  • What?
  • I don’t get it
  • That’s not what I asked

Definition request

  • What is pronation?
  • What is a cross-trainer?

Repeat request

  • What did you say?
  • Can you repeat that?

Partial repeat request

  • Size 10 what?

Paraphrase request

  • What do you mean?
  • Can you say that another way?

Example request

  • What are my options?
  • What shoe brands do you carry other than Nike?

Understanding check

  • Delectable means delicious?
  • Flan is a dessert?

Confirmation check

  • A pizza with pineapple and papaya?


  • Self-correction: “What sizes are the boots- er- shoes available in?”
  • Other-correction:
A: They’re gonna drive back Wednesday.
B: Tomorrow.
A: Right, tomorrow.
A: How much do the Nikes in size 7 cost?
B: The Nike Air Max in size 7 costs $100.
A: Oh I thought those were $80.
B: The Nike Air in size 7 costs $80.
A: Oh okay.

Hearing check [voice only]

  • I didn’t hear that

Dimensions of repair

  • User-initiated vs. agent-initiated repair (who triggers repair?)
  • User-repair vs. agent-repair (who fixes the problem?)
  • Repair sequencing: What if an initial repair doesn’t work? How can you combine them? Looping through different repair strategies, fallback options, scaling up to agent-transfer.
    • There could be different fallback strategies. Perhaps, a definition request could be answered, but if that doesn’t work, then use the general repair strategy, and if that doesn’t work, offer to transfer. Alternatively, a user could say a general “I don’t get it”, to which you could respond with a paraphrase.