~ていた

Earlier, we saw that verbs ending in ~ている form what is more or less the equivalent of the present progressive tense (~ing) in English.

For example, we saw:

今はフランス語を勉強している
いま は フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + を + studies / studying + am doing.”



勉強する (べんきょうする) is a する-verb meaning "to study."

The て-form is 勉強して (べんきょうして).

Add ~いる and you get the ~ている form: 勉強している (べんきょうしている), meaning "(I) am studying," "(she) is studying," etc.

In spoken Japanese, the い in the verb ending ~ている typically gets shortened to just ~てる. In a casual sentence, we'd also be likely to drop the particle を here, as well:

今はフランス語勉強してる
いま は フランスご べんきょう してる。
I'm studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + studies / studying + am doing.”



Speaking of particles, hopefully you're not stressing about them too much. In this case, we could refer to は (wa) as the topic-marking particle. を is the object-marking particle. 



Any guesses as to what verb type the auxiliary verb いる is classified as?

It's an ichidan verb. (For more on verb types, go back to our earlier lessons!)

Now for the quiz question of doom: Since いる is an ichidan verb, what is the plain past tense of this verb?

Any guesses?


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Are you even trying, or just scrolling? Well, whatever. The answer is:

いた

If you don't know why いる becomes いた in the plain past tense, you should go back a few lessons.

 

So you know that ~ている is the present progressive tense.

And you know that いた is the plain past tense of the verb いる.

How, then, would we form the past progressive tense (=was ~ing) in Japanese?

That would be...

~ていた!

...and maybe you simply guessed that because it's the title of this lesson. ^^

 Well, with everything that we've covered so far, do you now know how to say "I was studying French" ...?

That would be...

フランス語を勉強していた
フランスご を べんきょう していた。
I was studying French.
Literally: “French (language) + を + studying + was doing.”



And more casually that would be:

フランス語勉強してた
フランスご べんきょう してた。
I was studying French.
Literally: “French (language) + studying + was doing.”



Yes, we also drop the い in spoken forms of ~ていた, "was ~ing."

 



You also know how to conjugate verbs into their plain present negative forms, yeah?

I'm sure you do (unless I suck at teaching), because we covered it in an earlier lesson. (Noticing a pattern here?)

To make this easy, though, I'll just get right to it: The plain present negative form of いる is いない.

Accordingly, when you want to say that you are not doing something (negative present progressive), you can use ~ていない:

今はフランス語を勉強していない
いま は フランスご を べんきょう していない。
I am not studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + を + studies / studying + am not doing.”



Once again, we can drop the い when being more casual:

今はフランス語勉強してない
いま は フランスご べんきょう してない。
I'm not studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + studies / studying + am not doing.”


 



Review Detour

Remember these verbs in dictionary form below?

01 買う(かう // kau // to buy
02 行く(いく // iku // to go
03 脱ぐ(ぬぐ // nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
04 押す(おす // osu // to push; to press
05 立つ(たつ // tatsu // to stand
06 死ぬ(しぬ // shinu // to die
07 遊ぶ(あそぶ // asobu // to play
08 飲む(のむ // nomu // to drink
09 座る(すわる // suwaru // to sit down
10 食べる(たべる // taberu // to eat
11 起きる(おきる // okiru // to get up; to wake up
12 する(suru // to do; to make
13 来る(くる // kuru // to come
 

How about the following plain present negative conjugations?

01 買わない(かわない // kawanai // don't buy; won't buy
02 行かない(いかない // ikanai // don't go; won't go
03 脱がない(ぬがない // nuganai // don't take off; won't take off [e.g. shoes]
04 押さない(おさない // osanai // don't push [press]; won't push [press]
05 立たない(たたない // tatanai // don't stand; won't stand
06 死なない(しなない // shinanai // don't die; won't die
07 遊ばない(あそばない // asobanai // don't play; won't play
08 飲まない(のまない // nomanai // don't drink; won't drink
09 座らない(すわらない // suwaranai // don't sit down; won't sit down
10 食べない(たべない // tabenai // don't eat; won't eat
11 起きない(おきない // okinai // don't get up; won't get up
12 しない(shinai // don't do [make]; won't do [make]
13 来ない(こない // konai // don't come; won't come


Finally, here are some plain past negative verb conjugations...

01 買わなかった(かわなかった // kawanakatta // didn't buy
02 行かなかった(いかなかった // ikanakatta // didn't go
03 脱がなかった(ぬがなかった // nuganakatta // didn't take off
04 押さなかった(おさなかった // osanakatta // didn't push [press]
05 立たなかった(たたなかった // tatanakatta // didn't stand
06 死ななかった(しななかった // shinanakatta // didn't die
07 遊ばなかった(あそばなかった // asobanakatta // didn't play
08 飲まなかった(のまなかった // nomanakatta // didn't drink
09 座らなかった(すわらなかった // suwaranakatta // didn't sit down
10 食べなかった(たべなかった // tabenakatta // didn't eat
11 起きなかった(おきなかった // okinakatta // didn't get up
12 しなかった(shinakatta // didn't do [make]
13 来なかった(こなかった // konakatta // didn't come


This will all be useful in a second.



Back to ~ている and ~ていた...

Based on everything covered above, we can understand that the negative plain past of いる is いなかった. You might have to read through everything above (and the past lessons I've mentioned) a few times in order to understand why that is so. Or you could just trust me: いなかった is the negative plain past of いる.

いる → いない → いなかった
is → isn't → wasn't

Accordingly, the past progressive tense of verbs can be formed by attaching the verb-ending ~ていなかった, and this will be shortened in spoken language to ~てなかった:

フランス語を勉強していなかった
フランスご を べんきょう していなかった。
I was not studying French.
Literally: “French (language) + を + studies / studying + was not doing.”



フランス語勉強してなかった
フランスご べんきょう してなかった。
I wasn't studying French.
Literally: “French (language) + studies / studying + wasn't doing.”


 



Ready to level up your skills?

I have been hesitant thus far in describing ~ている as the "present progressive tense," as ~ている is in fact a bit more versatile than that.

~ている and ~ていない do not only serve as the Japanese version of the present progressive tense (e.g. am doing); they also work as the present perfect (progressive) tense (e.g. have done; have been doing).

Similarly, ~ていた and ~ていなかった can be translated into English as either the past progressive tense or the past perfect (progressive) tense, depending on the context.

To explain this, it may help to look at a few examples.

The sentences below lack context, so it will not always be clear which tense we should be translating them into, and accordingly there will often be two translations for a sentence.

There are words that can give us clues as to which tense we would use when translating a sentence into English, though.

In the sentences below, the following words will provide these clues:

今(いま // now
まだ(still; yet
もう(already; anymore
一年(いちねん // one year
去年(きょねん // last year
くらい(about; around


Here we go...


今はフランス語を勉強している
いま は フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



今はフランス語勉強してる
いま は フランスご べんきょう してる。
I’m studying French now.
Literally: “now + は + French (language) + studying + am doing.”



もうフランス語を勉強している
もう フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am already studying French.
Literally: “already + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



もうフランス語勉強してる
もう フランスご べんきょう してる。
I'm already studying French.
Literally: “already + French (language) + studying + am doing.”



まだフランス語を勉強している
まだ フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am still studying French.
Literally: “still + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



まだフランス語勉強してる
まだ フランスご べんきょう してる。
I'm still studying French.
Literally: “still + French (language) + studying + am doing.”



まだフランス語を勉強していない
まだ フランスご を べんきょう していない。
I am not studying French yet. // I have not started studying French yet.
Literally: “still + French (language) + を + studying + am not doing.”



まだフランス語勉強してない
まだ フランスご べんきょう してない。
I’m not studying French yet. // I haven’t started studying French yet.
Literally: “still + French (language) + studying + am not doing.”



もうフランス語を勉強していない
もう フランスご を べんきょう していない。
I am not studying French anymore.
Literally: “anymore + French (language) + を + studying + am not doing.”



もうフランス語勉強してない
もう フランスご べんきょう してない。
I’m not studying French anymore.
Literally: “anymore + French (language) + studying + am not doing.”



去年はフランス語を勉強していた
きょねん は フランスご を べんきょう していた。
Last year, I was studying French. // Last year, I had been studying French.
Literally: “last year + は + French (language) + を + studying + was doing.”



去年はフランス語勉強してた
きょねん は フランスご べんきょう してた。
Last year, I was studying French. // Last year, I’d been studying French.
Literally: “last year + は + French (language) + studying + was doing.”



一年くらいフランス語を勉強している
いちねん くらい フランスご を べんきょう している。
I have been studying French for about a year.
Literally: “one year + about / around + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



一年くらいフランス語勉強してる
いちねん くらい フランスご べんきょう してる。
I’ve been studying French for about a year.
Literally: “one year + about / around + French (language) + studying + am doing.”



もう一年くらいフランス語を勉強している
もう いちねん くらい フランスご を べんきょう している。
I have already been studying French for about a year.
Literally: “already + one year + about / around + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



もう一年くらいフランス語勉強してる
もう いちねん くらい フランスご べんきょう してる。
I’ve already been studying French for about a year.
Literally: “already + one year + about / around + French (language) + studying + am doing.”



去年はもうフランス語を勉強していなかった
きょねん は もう フランスご を べんきょう していなかった。
I was not studying French anymore last year. // I had already stopped studying French last year.
Literally: “last year + は + already / anymore + French (language) + を + studying + was not doing.”



去年はもうフランス語勉強してなかった
きょねん は もう フランスご べんきょう してなかった。
I wasn’t studying French anymore last year. // I’d already stopped studying French last year.
Literally: “last year + は + already / anymore + French (language) + studying + wasn’t doing.”



去年はまだフランス語を勉強していなかった
きょねん は まだ フランスご を べんきょう していなかった。
I still was not studying French last year. // I still had not started studying French last year.
Literally: “last year + は + still + French (language) + を + studying + was not doing.”



去年はまだフランス語勉強してなかった
きょねん は まだ フランスご べんきょう してなかった。
I still wasn’t studying French last year. // I still hadn’t started studying French last year.
Literally: “last year + は + still + French (language) + studying + wasn’t doing.”



Ow, my brain. We're not done yet, though...



What's the deal with もう and まだ?

This has the potential to be very confusing. First, let's start with negative verbs (e.g. verbs ending in ~ない、~ていない).

まだ with ~ない → "yet; still (not)":
With negative verbs, まだ describes something that has not been done yet.

まだフランス語を勉強していない。
まだ フランスご を べんきょう していない。
I am not studying French yet. // I have not started studying French yet.
Literally: “still + French (language) + を + studying + am not doing.”



もう with ~ない → "(not) anymore":
With negative verbs, もう describes something that is no longer being done.

もうフランス語を勉強していない。
もう フランスご を べんきょう していない。
I am not studying French anymore.
Literally: “anymore + French (language) + を + studying + am not doing.”



As for positive verb conjugations...

まだ with ~る → "still":
With positive verbs, まだ describes something that is continuing to be done or has not finished.

まだフランス語を勉強している。
まだ フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am still studying French.
Literally: “still + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”



もう with ~る → "already":
With positive verbs, もう describes something that is already (being) done (emphasis on the fact that the thing started to be done or was done before now).

もうフランス語を勉強している。
もう フランスご を べんきょう している。
I am already studying French.
Literally: “already + French (language) + を + studying + am doing.”




That is a lot of information to process.

I wouldn't feel too bad if it seems overwhelming now. You can try re-reading it from the top if you're feeling brave.

If you're getting lost, then be sure to refer to the past lessons that are mentioned throughout the explanations above.

I think that, in time, you'll find that verb tenses are MUCH easier in Japanese than they are in English. They just take some getting used to.

Stay strong, fellow student.



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