But apparently my story moved her, 'cause suddenly she was/started crying.

What is more natural here?

2 Answers 2


I would say "started" if the narrator was watching as she began and so saw it, and "was" if the narrator realized that she had begun while the tale was still being told. This reflects the narrator's point of view.


cause suddenly she started crying is more natural

You cannot say suddenly she was crying, because it cannot be a sudden action if it had started earlier.

It is better to say:

But apparently my story had moved her, cause suddenly she started crying.

  • 2
    Not necessarily. In narrative, it's possible to say 'Suddenly [something was happening]', implying that the situation changed so quickly that the character didn't notice when it actually started to happen. While the speaker is telling their story, they suddenly become aware that the listener is crying. May 21, 2020 at 8:26
  • The example is different than what you are trying to say. In your example "they suddenly became aware" is simple past and it's correct, but you can't say the listener is suddenly crying.
    – John Jami
    May 21, 2020 at 8:54
  • I said become aware, not became. If you want it in the past tense: While the speaker was telling their story, they suddenly became aware that the listener was crying. May 21, 2020 at 9:06
  • Doesn't change it, you are using suddenly for become aware, Can you just say suddenly the listener is/was crying?
    – John Jami
    May 21, 2020 at 9:19
  • 1
    Yes, that's what I'm trying to explain! Suddenly she was crying can mean I suddenly realised that she was [already] crying. May 21, 2020 at 9:52

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