is what happens or what happen?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by rafaelgan, Feb 17, 2007.

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  1. rafaelgan Senior Member

    well my question is which one is the correct, what happens or what happen,.... also i want to know mmm, is what's happen or whats happens.

    so, i got two question.
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Welcome to the forum, rafaelgan!

    It depends on the context. Please give us a few sample sentences. Try using the phrases and we'll help you out. :)
  3. rafaelgan Senior Member

    well, i am not sure, can you make the difference, or sentences?
  4. RocketGirl

    RocketGirl Senior Member

    Canada, English
    what happen:cross:
    what happens:tick:
    what's happen:cross:
    whats happens:cross:
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    What happened?
    What's happening?
    These are complete sentences.

    What happens ... ... ... ?
    What will happen ... ... ... ?
    These need something added to complete the sentence, for example:
    What happens if I push this button?
    What will happen if I pull that lever?
  6. rafaelgan Senior Member

    so if i use what's i cant use happen or happens , just the word happening,

    am i right?
  7. mike83 Junior Member

    italian - Italy
    or maybe
    "what's happened?" as the contraction of "what has happened?"
  8. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Either way - please use proper punctuation - capital letters to start sentences and for "I" and a full stop to end.

    Thank you, Timpeac (moderator).
  9. sunyaer Senior Member

    When a bang noise from somewhere is heard in a room with a few people inside, what would be said to ask:

    “What happened?”

    “What’s happened?”

    “What is happening?”
  10. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I wouldn't normally use "happened" in that context. I would say "What was that?" If something carries on for a while, such as the room shaking from an earthquake, someone unfamiliar with the experience might say "What is happening?"

    "What happened?" by itself is usually reserved for a meaning similar to "what was the result?" or "what was the cause?"

    A: Well, I guess I won't be going to football practice anymore.
    B: Why? What happened? (What is the reason/cause?)

    A: I talked with Ashley last night.
    B: What happened? (What was the result?)
  11. sunyaer Senior Member

    If the context is modified a bit like this:

    Lights all went out suddenly in a room with a few people inside including you, would you say "what happened"?
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I suppose so. To me, "what happened" is something you ask of someone who knows the answer. So, let's say you were inside the house and someone was flipping circuit breakers to see which rooms were connected to that circuit, the person outside the house could yell to you "What happened?" You would respond "the lights in the living room went out."

    To express surprise or confusion, even when no one else may know any more than you do, I think it's more likely to say "What's going on?" or "What was that?" or "What's happening?", not "What happened?"
  13. sunyaer Senior Member

    So if my mom is washing dishes and I hear a breaking noise coming out of the kitchen to the living room where I am watching TV, I might suppose that she just broke a plate, and of course I am assuming she knows the answer, would I say:

    “What happened?”
  14. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Absolutely. It fits perfectly in that context, in my opinion. "What is happening?" would not, in that case, unless you hear a series of noises.
  15. Maya rtdc77 New Member

    "I think it is unfair what happens with ...or what is happening?"
  16. v-ly New Member

    What happens ?
    is correct. In this case, WHAT is referred
    to only one thing, sigular. With the third person singular of present tense
    the verb must be in plural form.
    eg. goes, studies, happens, says...
    mostly with S at the end.

    What happen ?
    Is correct if WHAT is referred to many things, plural. So in the present tense
    they don't need to write verbs in plural
    Eg. What are they? What happen?

    What happened ?
    is correct . Past tense.

    What's happened?(what has happened?)
    is correct . Present perfect tense.

    What is happening ?
    is correct. Present continuous tense.

    What will happen ? Future tense.

    It depends on which tense is used
    to emphasize the meaning.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have never said, or heard 'What happen?'
    Whatever the reason behind it, even if you expect a long list of consequences, you would only ever say "What happens ...?'
  18. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    "What happen" is definitely a mistake. I rarely say that, but I'm confident about this one. :) In fact, it is one of the common red flags that signal you are speaking to a non-native speaker.
  19. v-ly New Member

    [[ Moderator note. It is useful to include links to source, but you must always include the relevant text within the post so that readers do not have to click the link to understand the post.]]
    It can be seen in google
    'What happen - Somebody set up us the bomb, we get signal, main screen turn on.'[/QUOTE]

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2015
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You will find many examples of incorrect English if you search the Internet.
    In this particular example, the text you have found is incorrect English. It may be deliberately incorrect, I can't tell.
    The reference is to the book, What Happened, by Scott McClellan. The image is from a 'bizarre image' website.

    I suggest you simply believe what you have been told here. 'What happen' is wrong.
  21. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Almost everything in that sentence is wrong. :) "What happened? Somebody set up us the bomb for us, we got (a) signal, and the main screen turned on."
  22. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    It seems that v-ly is working from the mistaken premise that "What..?" is singular or plural, depending on whether "what" represents a single or plural subject. That just isn't so.

    "What are they?" is used when we want information about some plural represented here by "they", but we ask "What happens...?" (singular). For example, we know that a lot of things happen when there is an earthquake, but we ask: "What happens when there's a big earthquake?" The answer might be: "People panic, buildings collapse, people are trapped under rubble - a lot of bad things happen."

    (Incidentally, when we don't know who is doing something (even if we know there are plural people involved), we say "Who is..?" For example, "Who is coming to the party?" - we know that there are many people coming, but the question word "who" is still singular.)
  23. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    We need to be careful about this.
    In other contexts, we treat 'what' as singular or plural, depending on whether we are referring to one thing or more than one thing.
    'What is that red button for?
    'What are those boys doing with my feather duster?'
    That is when 'what' is enquiring about something known, and the answer to the question will be 'That red button is ...' or 'Those boys are ... '. The subject of the expected answer is known.

    But in the context of the topic example, and any similar examples (see What makes/make up: singular or plural verb with What), if 'what' is asking about something unknown, it is always singular.
    The subject of the answer is unknown.

    I expect there is a clear grammatical explanation.
  24. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    Hahaha -- this is actually one of the most famous examples (see here) of terrible, broken English caused by inept translation from the Japanese.

    I assure you: "what happen" is definitely, definitely wrong.
  25. Another possibility is the that writer is showing the reader that the person speaking is not a native speaker of English. We can't hear the accent but we can see the mistakes.
  26. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    Not in this case, Dale. (Also, that would be marginally offensive.)
  27. v-ly New Member

    ...and what do you think about this question :
    Who are the signers of the Declaration of Independence?
  28. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Since this refers to an event almost 250 years ago, I'd say:

    "Who were the signatories of the Declaration of Independence?" :)
  29. v-ly New Member


    So, WHO can be used as a
    plural interrogative pronoun, right?
  30. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    <moderator note: we are now moving into an entirely different topic. Please search the forum for existing threads about "who" and plural pronouns. If you don't find your answer, please add a question to an existing thread. If you don't find any existing threads on the topic, please open a new thread. Thank you.>
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