Past tense used in expressions of ongoing states

I was laying in bed last night dwelling on the semantics of why sometimes past tense verbs are used in common expressions about ongoing states. Three come to mind:

お腹が空きました ‘I’m hungry’
疲れた ‘I’m tired/worn out’
のどが渇きました ‘I’m thirsty’

I’m sure others exist, but the three that came to mind all apply to the body. I don’t know if that is part of the underlying reason of why the past tense can be used in these contexts, but I was curious what the community thinks about why it is used in these cases.

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Using た emphasizes that the state change just happened or that there is a sense of maybe just being fully aware of it. The ている form expresses that the state has been ongoing.

Similarly, if for instance a pencil falls on the floor, you can say 落ちた immediately after it happens, but if it stays there you’d say 落ちている.


“I got hungry,” “I got tired/worn out,” and “I got thirsty” can all be used in English right after the event that caused the state, and will be understood that the speaker is still experiencing the state. Seems pretty similar?


Looking at it that way makes a lot more sense. I’ve definitely seen Japanese people plop down and immediately say あーーー、疲れた~~ after doing something physically demanding.


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