Suppose I'm talking with someone and they say/ask something that I don't get it. Can I use the following sentences?

"I don't understand what she said"

"I don't understand what she asked"?

because he/she already said/asked so it's definitely in the past but for me, I can't use "I didn't understand" because I still don't understand what they're saying or asking. Can someone please explain in detail whether I can use it or not and why?

Thank you in advance for all of your precious help!

  • By "the following sentences" I think you mean "The sentences in the title". I've edited your question. Please check this is correct.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 16:15
  • It's not clear what you think is the problem here. You explain, nicely, that you must use "said" (because it's the past) and you can't use "didn't" because it's not the past. You already know that you can use a different tense in a subordinate clause. So what is the problem?
    – James K
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 16:25
  • I'm just scared that what I already know is wrong. I'm kinda stressed out about it and don't want to speak in public cuz I don't know when I speak it is right or not so I just want a double check.
    – Rosé Cop.
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 18:54
  • That will be a problem for you! The best learners make lots of mistakes.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 19:05
  • Thank you so much for your advice @James K. I really appreciate it. You gave me a big relief. I'll keep learning and won't let my fear overcome me.
    – Rosé Cop.
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


Yes. It's all good.

"I don't understand" ...

Present tense for the "stative" verb "understand" (and not present continuous). The "not understand" is in the present.

... what she said.

Past tense in the subordinate clause, because it refers to a specific past event.

I recall your previous question Can I use past tense and present tense in the same sentence? And the answer is still "Yes"

  • Thank you so much for your help @James K. It's very clear for me from what you've explained.
    – Rosé Cop.
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 18:49
  • If this answer has helped you, consider up voting and accepting it.
    – James K
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 22:26
  • "I didn't understand" is also possible but has a slightly different connotation - to me, "I don't understand" means that even if I remember what she said, I still don't understand (so it's good if you're asking "what did she mean? I don't understand what she said. Could you explain it?") While "I didn't understand" suggests I didn't understand at the time and now I couldn't tell you what she said (maybe you couldn't hear at the time).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 3 at 9:17

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