~ている, a.k.a. my first roadblock in grammar

Hello guys!
I was initially going to post this in the Short Grammar Questions thread, but it was getting so long I thought I’d better start a new topic. I’m sure this must’ve been covered somewhere on the forum already, but I couldn’t find it. )= I hope you don’t mind if I bring it back up. As you can see from the title, it’s from beginner grammar, so excuse my ignorance.

I’ve been working my way through Genki and, recently, studying Lesson 7. What bugged me a little was the usage of ~ている for expressing “result of a change”. I try not to rely on “translating” the grammar into English since that’s bound to chaos, but this time it’s been hard lol. I am (quite) fine with the idea of, for “change verbs”, this construction expressing things that have evolved their state with effects to the present time. BUT…

"X ている" vs. "X"

I’m having a hard time differentiating ~ている from simply the verb in the present tense (or other tenses, considering the one of いる) for the case of the “change verbs”. Using examples from the book and adding sentences of my own below:

お金をたくさん 持っている(You) have a lot of money. Result of owning money.
お金をたくさん 持つ(You) have a lot of money. (?)

家族は東京に 住んでいるMy family lives in Tokyo. Result of residing there.
家族は東京に 住むMy family lives in Tokyo. (?)

母を 知っている(You) know my mother. Result of getting to know her.
母を 知る(You) know my mother. (?)

I am guessing the second ones are either ungrammatical or simply not the common inflection for these types of verbs. I’m tending to believe that they are built in that manner the same way, in English, we never say “I sit down”, but “I am sitting down”, so saying “持つ”, “住む”, and “知る” would not be appropriate. Can someone clarify or confirm? Man is this mind-boggling :joy:

The issue extends into “movement verbs”:
東京に 行っているI am in Tokyo. Result of going there.
東京に いるI am in Tokyo. (?)
And for these, I’m guessing the latter, while not ungrammatical, emphasizes the state of being/existing in Tokyo, while the former highlights the fact that I’ve come to Tokyo and am still there. Is that true?

"To be X-ing" vs. "To X"

My other question is regarding the “translation” the book provides. It mentions that Xている when used with “change verbs” does not mean “to be X-ing”.

For movement verbs, it says that (depending on the context, I assume) 東京に行く can mean “(I) am going to Tokyo (right now)”, and I’m fine with that. But does this apply to verbs like the other ones I exemplified before? (持つ、住む、知る...)

The example it gives is
私は 結婚しているI am married. Result of getting married.
So I am assuming that the counterpart:
私は 結婚する。 either means “I am getting married (right now)” or “I am going to/will get married”. Is that assumption too bold? lol

Anyway, this loooong post was kind of me trying to find my own explanation and wondering if you guys could help clarify or correct me if I’m wrong!
I imagine this must be pretty basic stuff for a lot of you, but it made my mind go
tenor (1)

Thank you lots if you read this far. :orange_heart: Any help is truly appreciated.


Basically the deal is that some verbs are continuous - the action is takes place over a period of time - while some verbs are instantaneous - the action happens once, and then the resultant state remains.

For continuous verbs, like 食べる or 住む or 持つ, the ~ている form indicates the continuation of the action - 食べる = eat, 食べている = am eating, and so forth.

For instantaneous verbs, like 知る or 死ぬ or 結婚する, the ~ている form indicates the continuation of the resultant state. 知る = to come to know, 知っている = to know.

(Side note, in Japanese, 知る and 分かる are instantaneous verbs that refer to the actual moment of understanding. It’s a bit different to how “to know” works in English.)


Just a point but I think you’re confusing 行く with いる here - 行ってる would give the sense that you’re going to Tokyo (as in you’re in transit and currently in the process of going to Tokyo). いる is “to be” so it generally would be fine to say 東京にいる to show that you’re in Tokyo in the moment as far as I understand

Someone can correct me if any of what I said here is wrong


No, 行く/来る are mostly seen as instantenous, 東京に行っている is almost always “I’m in Tokyo” (because I went there), not I’m currently going to Tokyo, the 行く move is finished already and can have been done years ago. (Although of course it can also be one of the other meaning of ていろ, for example the one for habit)

行く/来る are part of the verb that tend to confuse English learners like 死んでいる or 送っている. (Not “dying” or “sending”)

Now In some context 行っている or 来ている can indeed mean “currently going/currently coming” but it’s not common.


I’m not a fan of this guide, but too lazy to dig up the other resources on this topic and this is the popular free one so…


Edit: why is there like two versions of this? **** that site sometimes

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The second one is more like “To have a lot of money.” It’s similar to the infinitive form in English, where it typically isn’t used by itself, but is used in relative clauses. Here’s an example:
お金をたくさん持つ者 “Someone who has a lot of money”

And in English: “It’s good to have a lot of money.” (“To have” here is the infinitive form in English.)

There are other verbs where the base tense is used the same way we would use the future tense in English. Note that Japanese does not have a dedicated future tense.
東京に行く “(I) will go to Tokyo.”

Another way to think of the ている form is that it means “to be in the state of (or the state resultant of).” As others have pointed out, this means that the meaning depends on whether the verb is instantaneous or continuous. Something like 歩いている lines up pretty much 1-to-1 with “walking”, whereas 結婚している is much closer to “is/are married” in English. Instantaneous verbs where an action happens and then a resultant state persists matches pretty closely with the English present perfect tense. (As others have pointed out, 知る and 分かる are a bit different since we express the concepts differently in English.)

ペンが落ちている “the pen has fallen.”
その人は結婚している “those people are married.” (or “that person is married”)
母を知っている “mother is known (to you) = (you) know (my) mother”
わかった “that became known (to me) = I know that / I got it / I understand”


That’s all fair enough, though using 行っている for yourself still feels like it would be slightly strange - if you’re currently in Tokyo wouldn’t you want to use 来ている? Since the direction of motion you’re referring to is towards you as opposed to away

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Sorry I just copied and paste the “I’m in Tokyo” from OP without thinking, but yes I think that would be a bit strange. Much more natural to use it to talk about someone else like “妹は東京に行っています” My sister is in Tokyo, or My sister has gone to Tokyo (Funnily enough, I hesitated here, went to Tokyo ? has gone to Tokyo ? Somehow I’m more confused by English present perfect than by Japanese ている to be honest :stuck_out_tongue:)

Still I could find a few instance on twitter of people using 行っている about themselves and it often goes like this:

トイレに行っている間に… (While I was in the bathroom) followed by a picture of a pet who messed up something in the house (like a plant knocked over, soil everywhere)

So that’s interesting, the owner went to the bathroom, during that time the pet messed up something, owner went back, found the crime scene and took a picture, so they can’t use 来る anymore to talk about them being in the bathroom.


Genki (sorry, I don’t know if you’ve used it) specifically uses “Married” for the “indication of change”. Which I like. Like, you don’t just get married and that’s it. You are married, as in your state is married. So it’s a continuous. I think it’s a good example for how the continuous works in that context.


Yeah using 行っている in conjunction with a while makes sense, since you’re using it in a past sense there (your frame of reference for location is detached from your actual location in that case)


Thank you so much for all the replies! It brought me the spark of comprehension I needed. :sparkles:

That is very much true, and it is me to be blamed: I just “simplified” the example given by the textbook by changing the subject to “I”. It was originally someone else, and I agree that in this case 来ている is the more natural one. My bad!

That makes a lot of sense, and I think I do understand that concept. :slight_smile:
So is it correct of me to assume that, when you say ペンが落ちている, for instance, it stresses the “resultant state” of the pen falling down (it has fallen down, and it is down), while saying simply ペンが落ちた is just a statement of an action that took place/happened? (Or, as you mentioned, a construction that may be used in relative clauses.) (Since both sentences above can assume, more or less, the same translation into English, right?)
Also, if I wanted to say “the pen is falling” (right now), as in two people are talking and they see a pen rolling off a table and falling down onto the floor (I know this is super specific, but it could be anything else falling down as you watch), would using ている work for stating the continuous tense, or would “あーー、XXXが落ちる!!” be the more appropriate construction?

Other than these few “what ifs”, I think I do understand a lot better now, thanks to all of you. I don’t think it is a difficult concept per se, but it overlapped a little with prior “assumptions/understandings” I had prior to being introduced to it.

@ccookf thank you very much for the links. I’ll take a look at them right away. :slight_smile:
And thanks to everyone that replied. I wish I could give some reply directly to every one of you, but it would become another long text from me ahahah. I’ve read it all very carefully and appreciate it!! :hugs:

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The use of 行く and 来る, I think, depends on the perceived/emphasized frame of reference.

The narrator talks about how he “went” to the bathroom so the point of reference is him going to the bathroom, not coming to the bathroom from the perspective of being in the bathroom.

However, it’s common to say stuff like ビールを買って来た, because you went to buy beer, came back and now you’re home with the beer :slight_smile: .

If one wants to emphasize the fact they’re currently in Tokyo, 東京にいる would work as well.

Correct :slight_smile: .

Unfortunately, not, I think. The 〜ている form of intransitive verbs (or 〜する constructs) expressing state would translate to “has X” or “is Xed” in English, because that emphasizes the present state, even though it may sometimes sound awkward:
ペンが落ちている。 (The pen has fallen. - we see the resulting state)
ペンが落ちた。 (The pen fell. - non-descript, we don’t know what the pen is doing now)

An interesting thing about, I believe, early modern English was that state descriptions like “is cursed” would be pronounced slightly differently for emphasis. This was lost later on.

I had the same problem, to be honest, because before delving into Genki I would often conflate 〜ている with the continuous tense in English.


Thank you for the clarification. I’m grasping this concept more and more as I continue to read other explanations. :slight_smile:
My mistake comparing those translations. I am not a native English speaker, and the simple past / present perfect tenses sometimes get blurred together in my head (in Portuguese there is no such differentiation: “it has fallen” and “it fell” translates the same way in many situations! Same goes for French I believe (the other language I’m familiar with)).
I do recognize the difference in the meaning of those two sentences, so thank you for pointing that out! It makes sense that the ている may be thought of “has Xed” or “is Xed” for these types of verbs. I’ll have that in mind from now on.

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Yes, Japanese has a perhaps slightly non-orthodox approach to time expressions and as @Jonapedia often rightly points out, the time perspective of the narrator is extremely important. The good thing is that more complex grammar structures can be easily broken down into individual parts in a way that each makes sense independently. What I think is worth remembering is that past tenses are typically used when talking about completed actions or events that remain in the past and their current state is not necessarily known.


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