Today I have seen a sentence on CNN web site which reads ""Brexit:What just happened?".

The news text is about two British ministers resigning due to Brexit issues. This resignations are unexpected or surprising and happened suddenly that everyone got shocked.

So, I started to think about what the word "just" in this sentence emphasizes or why it was used.

1) The word "just" may have been used because the writer wants to give news about a situation which has happened just recently. If used for this function, it is ok. This is a common usage of just. We are familiar with this usage.

2) However, I also thought the word "just" in the sentence was used, because the writer wants to emphasize "The events that happened are unexpected or surprising which happened suddenly and which nobody would have imagined to take place. And this situation came as a shock".

Although I think the word "just" might have also been used to refer to such a thing, I am not quite sure about whether "just" can be used in this way or if it has such a function.

I could not reach a decision. So what do you think? Why the word "just" was used in this sentence? Was it used 1)to mean "recently" or 2) to mean "shockingly, suprisingly, unexpectedly"?

Thank you.

  • 3
    IMO, it's a bit of both. It's a play on the phrase.
    – Omegastick
    Nov 16, 2018 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


News headlines tend to be a bad example for anyone learning English grammar.

For example:

Grammatical equivalent: A dead body has been found in a cemetery.

You will also find that some written news items are now in the form of Q&As (questions and answers) where, instead of an article with subheadings and paragraphs, you will just read a list of questions followed by the answer.

Personally, I think the headline "Brexit: What just happened?" is just typical of modern news headlines - it is posing a question and inviting you to come and read the answer.

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