if I understand/ understood you correctly...

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blissfool

New Member
English
hey guys!I've been wondering how come I get to hear people say

"If I understand you correctly" and "If I understood you correctly" when trying to verify with someone an information given.

Which is the correct way of saying this?
 
  • TommyGun

    Senior Member
    Hi all,

    Conceive of the following situation:
    A person just explained (or have explained?) to me some things. We are standing face to face, and I want to make sure that I (understand/understood/'ve understood) him correctly. I think up a summation of what he said and restate that to him in order to check my understanding.

    Which way would be natural to make my cue?
    1. If I understand you correctly ...
    2. If I understood you correctly ...
    3. If I've understood you correctly ...


    At first I thought of past simple and 2nd way, but then a couple of concerns showed up:
    a. Past Simple refers to actions determined in the concrete moment of the past. If I say "If I understood .. " it will imply a concrete moment in the past when I understood. Why bring this moment up in favor of Preset Perfect (p.3)? I see no way to justify it except briefness in order not to use "long" Present Perfect.
    b. The 2nd point may be perceived as a subjunctive, unrealistic condition. Consist of a load of additional idiomatic content. Is that a decent justification not to say this way?

    The 1-st point sounds as if my understanding is ongoing in the moment of speaking. Formally, that makes the difference between 1st and the other points, but in real conversations I think they are completely interchangeable, aren't they?

    The 3-d way appears the best choice, but it is too long and I expect that people should rather cut it to a more concise phrase.

    Therefore, I'm completely puzzled and confused. How would you say in similar situations and why?
     
    Last edited:

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    Whatever distinctions others may draw, I say that in this context all amount to the same thing. If I was forced to choose I'd pick "have understood" which is kind of a link between the present and the past. The reason I see all (for me) amount to the ame is that you say that sentence immediately after the other person explains something. So "I understand" and "I understood" belong to the same period of time, if you get what I mean.
     
    Last edited:

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The first and third sound natural to me in this particular context.
    The second seems to relate to a moment in the past and allows the speaker to talk about other past actions that took place between that moment and now. I wouldn't rule it out, though.

    I'd probably use "understand" as part of an ongoing conversation that might go on to include more explanation,
    ... and "have understood" if it seems the explanation is complete.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    So "I understand" and "I understood" belong to the same period of time, if you get what I mean.
    In fact, I'm not quite sure that I got it.

    And there is another interesting point.
    When one didn't understand he can say "I missed the point" or "I have missed the point" (almost the same amounts of hits in Google for both phrases, but I guess that the second is more common as the first can also belong to a past narrative.
    But he can say "I didn't catch" rather than "I haven't caught". The second phrase is extremely rare.
    Why?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In fact, I'm not quite sure that I got it.

    And there is another interesting point.
    When one didn't understand he can say "I missed the point" or "I have missed the point" (almost the same amounts of hits in Google for both phrases, but I guess that the second is more common as the first can also belong to a past narrative.
    But he can say "I didn't catch" rather than "I haven't caught". The second phrase is extremely rare.
    Why?
    You have given us no context for these.
    Google counts are extremely unreliable in any case, and completely irrelevant if you don't take context into account.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    You have given us no context for these.
    Google counts are extremely unreliable in any case, and completely irrelevant if you don't take context into account.
    The context is that one person just completed his explanation, and a listener immediately or not more than half a minute later the explanation says "I (have) missed the point" or "I didn't catch / haven't caught".

    The question basically is which time the listener would choose in these phrases (for both immediate and a-half-minute-later cases) - Past Simple or Present Perfect.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    The context is that one person just completed his explanation, and a listener immediately or not more than half a minute later the explanation says "I (have) missed the point" or "I didn't catch / haven't caught".

    The question basically is which time the listener would choose in these phrases (for both immediate and a-half-minute-later cases) - Past Simple or Present Perfect.
    You'd probably make no error if you stuck to the present perfect in such contexts.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    You'd probably make no error if you stuck to the present perfect in such contexts.
    Thank you, Tazzler.

    What about the past simple? My grammar says that in Am. Eng. the past simple is normal with just, even when one announces news. For example:
    Where's Eric? ~ He just went out.
    I just had a brilliant idea.


    Is it normal to say "I missed your point" and "I didn't catch" immediately after explanation implying that implicit just?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Did I understand you correctly?

    I can't imagine "correct" being used there, as it is not a very colloquial way of asking that particular question anyway.

    This is colloquial speech:
    What, do you mean you're asking me to lend you some money? Is that it?
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    it is not a very colloquial way of asking that particular question anyway.
    Well, google gives quite a bunch of examples of this particular question. But I got that "correct" won't work. I just noticed that sometimes people say things like walk slow etc.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It (the version with "correctly") may be common, but it isn't "colloquial" in the sense that we might say it rather than write it. It isn't the kind of sentence you would say when chatting to your friends.

    In such a standard, correct sentence, which is neutral, but more on the formal than the colloquial side, I wouldn't expect to find a "flat adverb", or adjective beng used as an adverb.
     
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