THE TRUE MEANING OF -ている
-ている is oftentimes translated as the English -ing. It invokes the image of an action that’s continuous. But from how I’ve seen this grammar being used, it doesn’t feel like that’s what’s actually happening here. Instead, it feels like it’s actually describing the idea of something “existing” in the state of having done or doing an action. It might sound like I’m being pedantic. The difference is probably better shown through example.
The door is closed.
Notice how the above sentence doesn’t usually mean that the door is in the process of closing. Instead, it usually means that the door is already closed. Here’s another example.
There’s a Pokemon in the Pokeball.
The above sentence usually doesn’t mean that the Pokemon is in the process of entering the Pokeball. Instead, it sounds like it’s already contained within the Pokeball. What this leads me to believe is that ている isn’t actually modifying the verb to make it continuous. Rather, we could interpret this as two actions. The Pokemon enters the Pokeball, then exists in that state.
What about these examples?
He’s closing the door.
He runs every day.
In these examples, the subject exists in the state of doing the action rather than having completed it. I think it has something to do with whether or not the subject changes after the action is complete. If the action is something that doesn’t permanently change the state of the subject, then it tends to take the continuous meaning.
*-ている GIVES THE SUBJECT IT’S OWN WILL, WHEREAS -てある DEPRIVES IT OF WILL
If we think about this grammar as being fundamentally about existence, then it explains -てある really well. We can describe the difference between these two by using the same door closing example.
The door closed and now exists in that state. Its state was brought about by its own will.
The door exists in the state of having been closed by someone else. It has no will of its own.
Essentially, いる means that the subject’s state was brought about by its own will. ある means that the subject has no will of its own. It’s inanimate. If it has no will of its own, then its current state must have been brought about by someone else.
Note how in both cases, the door is the thing that’s marked with が. That’s because we’re fundamentally making an existence argument. Although the second case implies that the door was closed by someone else, the door is the subject of this sentence. It’s doing the action of existing. The door exists in the state of having been closed by something else. Existence is the action here. I believe that this is the correct interpretation.