‘Copy That' or 'Roger That': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 22, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'copy that' and 'Roger that?' I can help!

In this post, you will find definitions, meanings, and usage examples to help you learn how to use these terms.

Are you looking for a quick answer? 

If so, here it is: 

  • 'Copy that' is a term used by people using a radio use to communicate that they received a message. 
  • 'Roger that' is another radio response used to communicate that you received a message and intend to act accordingly. 

Do not leave yet, though. There is a lot more to learn about these two phrases.

What's the Difference Between 'Copy That' or 'Roger That?'

Both 'copy that' and 'roger that' are terms used to communicate that a message was received and understood.

So, how do you know the difference?

In some cases, there is no difference, and many people use the terms interchangeably. However, 'copy that' implies that a message was received but that the message was for informational purposes only.

The latter implies that the message requires the recipient to take some action and that they intend to act according to the order received.

So, how do you know which to use and when? 

  • Use 'copy that' when you want to let someone know that you received their message.

For example, if someone sends you a message, you could reply:

Copy that. I received the details for the appointment this afternoon. 

  • Use 'Roger that' to indicate that you received a message and you will act accordingly.

For example, you might hear someone say:

Roger that! We will meet you in the harbor at 1700 hours.

When pilots make contact with control towers, they have to use a specific code. In their initial communication, they must state vital details, like their location, aircraft identification, radio transmission frequency, and the phrase 'Information Charlie Received.'

Depending on the information received from the air traffic controller, the pilot has to respond with code words for yes, no, received, confirmed, etc., and end each transmission with over. If a pilot is unable to receive a message, the standard aviation response is unable to copy. 

Roger means 'received.' It originated as the phonetic representation of R, which is now Romeo. However, Roger or 'Roger that' is still used today in the aviation industry.

Definition of 'Copy That': What Does 'Copy That' Mean?

We are going to evaluate the meaning of 'copy that' by looking at the definitions of the words in the term.

Definition of Copy

In the context of this phrase, copy is an intransitive verb that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means:

  • A response confirming receipt of a message

It can also mean:

  • Do you understand?
  • Did you receive the message?

Synonyms of 'Copy'

  • Duplicate
  • Clone
  • Replicate
  • Reproduce
  • Print
  • Dupe
  • Facsimile
  • Carbon copy
  • Imitate
  • Clone
  • Forge
  • Fake
  • Re-creation
  • Re-create

Definition of That

The same dictionary defines that as:

  • A word indicating something specific

It can also mean:

  • A specific time or action
  • Used to suggest something specific follows
  • A term used to indicate something was caused by a specific time, event, or action

Synonyms of 'That'

  • Remote
  • Further
  • Farther
  • Far
  • Back
  • So
  • Really
  • Incredibly
  • Outside
  • Distant
  • Such
  • Particularly
  • Specifically
  • Especially
  • Greatly
  • Extra
  • Awful
  • Exceedingly
  • Totally
  • Mighty
  • Fiercely
  • Thorough;y
  • Entirely
  • Positively
  • Enormity
  • Wholly
  • Obviously
  • Roaringly
  • A lot
  • Right

Definition of 'Roger That': What Does 'Roger That' Mean?

'Roger that' is a term used by military and non-military members during radio transmissions to communicate that you received an incoming message and, if necessary, that you are taking action. While that is a basic overview of the meaning, there is no official definition because the term is military or aviation slang. So, we are going to take a closer look at the words in the term.

Definition of Roger

The definition of Roger is:

  • A previous phonetic sound for the letter R
  • It can also mean:
  • Transmission received
  • Transmission understood

Synonyms of 'Roger'

  • Romeo
  • Affirmative
  • Confirmed
  • Received
  • All right
  • Agreed
  • Certainly
  • Yes
  • Positive
  • Fine
  • Yea
  • Yep
  • Sure
  • Exactly
  • Precisely

Other Military Communications Terms

  • Alpha
  • Bravo
  • Charlie
  • Delta
  • Echo
  • Foxtrot
  • Golf
  • Hotel
  • India
  • Juliett
  • Kilo
  • Lima
  • Mike
  • November
  • Oscar
  • Papa
  • Quebec
  • Romeo
  • Sierra
  • Tango
  • Uniform
  • Victor
  • Whiskey
  • X-Ray
  • Yankee
  • Zuzu
  • Caution
  • Stop transmitting
  • ETA (estimated time of arrival )

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Copy That' or 'Roger That'

Pronunciation is critical. Knowing how to say a term gives you more confidence to use the word in written texts and conversations.

So, here is a quick pronunciation guide: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'copy that':

ka-pee that

  • To pronounce 'Roger that' use this phonetic spelling:

ra-jer that

Sample Sentences: 'Copy That' and 'Roger That'

Now, read these sample sentences to learn how to use these terms in various contexts.

Copy That

  • After air traffic control contacted the aircraft to advise that they would need to land at an alternate airport, the airplane captain replied, 'Copy that,' and diverted his flight path.
  • This is your radio. You need to keep on, and with you any time you are out on the property. Copy that?
  • Please respond to radio calls with copy that, so the other party knows you received the message.

In Conversation

  • Violet Vetiver:  Violet to Shelly
  • Shelly Shores:  Go for Shelly
  • Violet Vetiver: Michelle and Marco are in the front lobby for you. They said you have a 2 p.m. appointment.
  • Shelly Shores: Copy that! Please ask them if they would like a drink and sit them in the small conference room.

Roger That

  • When the air controller sends updates like traffic and weather reports, the official response to confirm receipt is Roger or 'Roger that.'
  • 'Roger' used to be the phonetic representation of R. So, pilots used 'Roger that' to confirm that they received messages from air towers.

In Conversation

  • Rosie Thorne: Rosie for Rudolf
  • Rudolf Reign: Go for Rudolf
  • Rosie Thorne: Your 3 p.m. client canceled. So, you do not have any more appointments today.
  • Rudolf Reign: Roger that, Rosie! You can go home after you water the plants and clean the lobby.
  • Rosie Thorne: Roger that!

Final Advice on 'Copy That' or 'Roger That'

I hope you have a firm grasp on the difference and when to use 'copy that' or 'Roger that.'

Here is a recap to be sure:

  • 'Copy that' and 'Roger that' are aviation and radio codes. 
  • 'Copy that' is more specific to the ability to hear the message due to frequency, volume, static, etc. 
  • 'Roger that' means that the message was received.

Now that you know the difference in these terms, check out the other confusing word posts here to learn about the commonly misused, misspelled, and mispronounced phrases.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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