Is ~ている used for past tense?

So far, I’ve come across quite a few context sentences that use ~ている, but that were translated to an English past tense. For example:

This horror movie was shot from the first-person perspective.

At first I dismissed these as translation quirks, but seeing multiple sentences like the above, I started wondering. I’ve already seen that some non-past forms in Japanese could very roughly be translated to past tense in other languages, such as with ~ことになっている (it was decided that~). Are ~ている conjugations sometimes used to talk about past things? Or is the translation off?

This simple answer is: sometimes.
I usually refer back to this imabi lesson when I forget the specifics. The Progressive/Continued State: -Te iru ~ている – IMABI 今日
(Edit: Updated Link. If you want the old version with the .net URL I used at the time of this posting, go here: Teiru - (

Also, one of its multiple uses listed in どんなときどう使う日本語表現文型辞典 is for “has been; is”:

“1) Result of change continues. Uses verbs of momentariness (verbs that express momentary action). In sentences ① and ② describes externally certain state, whether someone had a purpose in causing that state or it naturally came about. Sentences ③ and ④ show that action continues unabated. Sentences ⑤ and ⑥ describe clothing using transitive verb for clothing + ている. 2)When explaining nouns, V ている N can be replaced with V た N, as in sentence ⑥ . Forms V ている N and V た N are interchangeable. Forms V ている N and V たN are interchangeable, but not for action in progress. →◆ 3)In informal speech, V ている becomes V てる, as in sentence ⑦ .”


One use for ている is something that happened in the past that is still ongoing. In your example the movie still exists even if the actual action of shooting the movie was in the past. The same is used for marriage (結婚ている); though the act of getting married was in the past, you are still married now.

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〜ている can also describe a condition or state.

Window is open = まどが開いている
Motivation is dead = モチベーションが死んでいる

And then some people might translate those as “the window has been opened” or “motivation died,” but it’s because it’s describing the condition they’re maintaining as a result of the verb, not because it’s past tense.

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Yeah, Japanese doesn’t have the perfect aspect, and I feel like taking the spot of the perfect aspect is a usage of ている in Japanese, even though we are taught it as being just the present progressive initially. Though I haven’t checked to confirm that that is actually what is grammatically happening.

Thanks, that link helped me out.

Interpreting ~ている in my posted sentence as condition/state was confusing because as @alysonskye wrote, it can be translated in different ways. In English, I would say that a movie is shown in first-person perspective, but was shot in first-person perspective. If I translate the latter I get 撮影された, which became what I expected for the translations to match.

It doesn’t help that the sentence lacks some clarifying context, but I can’t do anything about that! :smiley:

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I agree that link was very helpful, particularly the table at the bottom of the page. It was detailed, easy tot follow and used examples, which I could use in daily speech. Thanks.

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