My friend was like

"I don't understand why the service was so slow.."

Why I can find no tense consistency here? Is it grammatically correct ? or it is just acceptable in spoken english rather than writing?

  • What is exactly inconsistent here? Is it that in your guessing the present tense in the main clause ("I don't understand") jars with the past tense in the subordinate clause ("the service was so slow")? Sep 19 '15 at 2:30
  • I don't understand why there was a powercut yesterday.
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 19 '15 at 6:48

I don't understand why the service was so slow...

understanding is not a momentary occurrence. You didn't understand then, and you still don't understand now.

So it relates to both the past and present situation.

It is grammatical as written.


Let us take an example from your question:

Suppose, I already knew the answer to your question. So, when we meet now, I would say:

I don't understand why you were confused about tense consistency.

I think it is a common expression to describe any past event/activity that you don't understand at present. Check:

I don't understand (at present) why there was (a past event) a powercut yesterday.

It is grammatical and acceptable.

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