“What was I saying” or “What did I say” when you’re interrupted?

When I’m in a discussion with someone and then someone interrupts us and then I forgot what I said and want to continue from the point where I stopped, is it correct to say:

What was I saying?

or is it:

What did I say?

And does this work in the second person, as well? For example, if I forgot what the person who was with me said, can I say:

What were you saying?

or is it:

What did you say?


If you’ve forgotten what you said earlier, it’s “What was I saying?”.

“What did I say?” has a completely different meaning. It is used when you notice the other person reacting in a strange way, and that question really means “You’re reacting strangely, I think this is due to something I said, please explain to me which of my words caused you to react like this and why.” Sometimes the person asking this has genuinely forgotten what they said, but often they do remember but don’t understand the reaction (or they’re pretending not to).

If you’ve forgotten what the other person has said, you can ask “What were you saying earlier?” or “What did you say, again?” (or other variations). Neither sentence feels completely natural in this meaning without an adverb, though they aren’t actually wrong.

“What did you say?” could also mean that you didn’t understand what the person say, and with no other clues that’s how I would understand it if I heard it.

— I think that [noise of an airplane going by]
— I’m sorry, what did you say?

When there is no apparent risk of interruption, it can also be a way to express surprise or disagreement with what was said.

— I don’t like this painting.
— What did you say? That’s my masterpiece! Why are you so unsupportive?

“What were you saying?” works best when there is some other context: “Whew, we got rid of the interruption. Now, what were you saying?” It can also have another meaning: when you’ve done something that changes the situation, and you think that what the person said no longer applies. It is common to shorten this to “You were saying?”.

— I don’t like this painting.
[throws the painting away] — There. You were saying?

Source : Link , Question Author : miami , Answer Author : Gilles ‘SO- stop being evil’

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