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Help me please solve the error in the sentence.

"I did not understand what happened at that moment"

In the word "happened" is verb tense error.

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    Happened is past tense. There is no error of tense. Someone could suggest an alternate sentence with a different meaning, but unless we know what meaning is intended, there's no way to do so. Could you add any context to the question? – snailboat Sep 26 '14 at 21:29
  • Actually I can, but I worry that google will index the page and then my essay won't be unic =) In another word it is something like this: "I felt hit in back side of my vehicle. I did not even understand what HAPPENED at that moment. After that I got out of my vehicle and saw something..." Word "happened" marked as VT (wrong verb tense) and I have no any idea what is wrong with it. – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 22:04
  • unic? This might be a slang spelling of a couple of words, but it is probably best avoided even in comments here. Why? I've never heard it before and had to look it up and I still am not sure what you mean.... – user6951 Sep 27 '14 at 15:42
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"At that moment" phrase draws attention that the verb "happen" was continuous at that moment.

So, it should be "was happening" since the verb "happen" was still on-going.

Because of that, that context should be:

"I did not understand what was happening at that moment"

  • Yeah here is sense too... – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 21:17
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One possibility would be that the moment in question happened a while before your lack of understanding:

  • Two days ago, something happened. (You didn't understand it when it happened.)
  • Yesterday, you still didn't understand it.
  • Today, you finally understand it.

Two days ago, you would have said

I don't understand what just happened.

Yesterday, you would have said

I don't understand what happened at that moment.

Today, you can finally say

I understand what happened at that moment.

But, if you want to tell me how you came to understand it, and you start by talking about what you were thinking yesterday, you need to say

I did not understand what had happened at that moment

Here you use the simple past ('did not understand') to refer to a particular past time, and then the past perfect ('had happened') to refer to another time that is before that first-mentioned time.

  • Oh, how difficult it is to understand =) but i feel you are right. 1)accident happened suddenly. 2)I did not understand what exactly had happened at that moment. 3) In next sentence I continue explain how I understood it. This is about past, 2 years ago. – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 21:12
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Depending on the context, the example could be correct.

"I did not understand what happened at that moment" could mean either:

  • "At that moment, I did not understand what happened" (but maybe I understood it later), or

  • "Something happened at that moment. I did not understand what happened."

If you still do not understand what happened, you could change the tense of the sentence to be:

"I do not understand what happened at that moment."

In all of these interpretations, the verb tense of "happened" is correct. The "moment" was in the past, so "what happened" also occurred in the past.

Mohamed is correct in that "was happening" is also correct -- but "happened" is still a correct choice. If something "was happening at that moment", the something probably took longer than "that moment". If something "happened at that moment", the something probably did not take longer than "that moment".

For example, as I was reading the climactic scene of "The Battle of Pelennor Field", a television announcer reported that Germans were dancing on the Berlin Wall. It would be equally valid to say:

At that moment, the Berlin Wall came down. (Something happened -- the Berlin Wall lost its ability to inspire fear.)

or

At that moment, people were dancing on the Berlin Wall. (Something was happening, and continued after that moment.)

  • Yes it is about first meaning "I did not understand what exactly happened at that moment" (and I understood it later, in a minute). But what's wrong with the verb "happened"? – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 20:44
  • In addition it is about sudden accident. And it was 2 years ago. But I am writing about it now. This is like a story. – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 20:56
  • Can I write "I did not understand what had happened" or something like "I did not understand what was happening at that moment."? Something should be changed with the tense... – Ruslan Sep 26 '14 at 21:01
  • Use "was happening". @Ruslan – mohamed Sep 26 '14 at 21:06

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