Is the following sentence gramatically correct?

I didn't understand what he wants to tell you.

I think that it expresses that at some time in the past I didn't understand what he still wants to tell you at the moment of speaking. Am I right?

1 Answer 1


Essentially, you are correct about how the tenses are being used.

It's more understandable if you put it in context:

John's about to show up. He wants to tell you something. He discussed it with me a while ago. At first, I didn't understand what he wants to tell you. But now I do. You should hear him out and consider his words.

Barring that kind of context, it's certainly an unusual way of phrasing things. However, it's grammatical.

  • would this form also fit in this case i did not understand what he was going to tell you
    – Yves Lefol
    Oct 29, 2019 at 20:12
  • @user5577 It's more easily understandable without additional context. Did and was are both past tense, so you don't need to think about it as much. (The going to tell part is future, but relative to the past time period.) Oct 29, 2019 at 20:28

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