"what were you saying?" vs "what did you say?

Nikita   Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:45 pm GMT
1."what were you saying?"

2."what did you say?"

What's the difference between 1 and 2 ?

furrykef   Sun Jul 22, 2007 2:27 pm GMT
Fro me, the difference partly depends on how much of the dialogue was missed. If somebody spoke to me for a minute before I realized that she was speaking and I wasn't paying attention, I'd say, "I'm sorry, what were you saying?" But if I only missed the last sentence, I'm more likely to say, "I'm sorry, what did you say?" (Or in either case, I could say "I'm sorry, what?", but that's aside from the point, of course...)

The difference isn't strict, and to some degree they are interchangeable. For instance, it's still perfectly possible to say "What were you saying?" even if only one sentence was uttered. I wouldn't say it in response to *very* short sentences (one or two words), though.

- Kef