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So, I'm trying to figure out what the correct verb tense for the following would be:

It's happening again. However, this time it feels completely different from when it happened earlier...

OR:

It's happening again. However, this time it feels completely different from when it was happening earlier...

Both "happened" and "was happening" sound correct in my head to me, so I'm not sure if they can both technically be used here or if one is definitely correct over the other.

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Remember:

Simple past is used for some event that happened in the past. It happened and finished in the past. But, Past Continuous talks about some event/action that was happening before, but for a period of time.

A lot depends on what was happening.

You can reconstruct your sentence to avoid confusion.

Some I can think of:

It's happening again -- only this time it feels completely different.

"it's happening again" means that something which is happening at this point of time happened in the past, too.


But if I have to choose from one of the options you provided, I would go for the first one:

It's happening again. However, this time it feels completely different from when it happened earlier...

Both seem right to me too, but I will go with the first option.

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first sentence use simple past tense to express your feeling after that thing had happend.

second sentence using past Continuous tense to express your feeling while that thing was happing in the past.

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