~ています(か)

In the previous lesson, we looked at the -ます form... which is to say, we finally looked at how to conjugate verbs into formal language.

In this lesson, we'll look at:

1) How to ask questions using ~ますか?

2) How to form the present progressive (=~ている) for formal sentences (=~ています)

3) How to get amazing scholarships to study Japanese in Japan for free.

Actually, just #1 and #2. Sorry. I don't know much about getting scholarships... though I do know that I used to spend countless hours dreaming about receiving them.
 

First, a refresher.

Some verbs in dictionary [plain present] form:

1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs
// kau // to buy
// iku // to go
// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
// osu // to push; to press
// tatsu // to stand
// shinu // to die
あそ // asobu // to play
// nomu // to drink
すわ // suwaru // to sit down

2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs
食べたべ // taberu // to eat
起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up

3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs
する(suru // to do; to make
来る(くる // kuru // to come


And in -ます form:

1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs
いますいます // kaimasu // buy
きますきます // ikimasu // go
ぎますぎます // nugimasu // take off [e.g. shoes]
しますします // oshimasu // push; press
ちますちます // tachimasu // stand
にますにます // shinimasu // die
びますあそびます // asobimasu // play
みますみます // nomimasu // drink
りますすわります // suwarimasu // sit down

2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs
食べますたべます // tabemasu // eat
起きますおきます // okimasu// get up; wake up

3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs
します(shimasu // do; make
来ます(きます // kimasu // come


If you don't understand why these verbs are getting conjugated this way, please go back and read the previous lesson.
 

Questions

As we have seen before, asking a question in casual Japanese is as simple as adding a question mark to a statement and using a rising intonation:


重い!
おもい!
It's heavy!
Literally: "heavy!"



重い?
おもい?
Is it heavy?
Literally: "heavy?"



You'll notice that Japanese is even a bit easier because they don't change the order of words for questions like we do in English. For example, in English, we would typically say "Does he live in New York?" when making the statement "He lives in New York." into a question. In Japanese, they would only ask "He lives in New York?" The word order of the question is the same as the statement.

When using formal language, however, we need to add the particle か to the end of our sentences:


重いです。
おもい です。
It's heavy.
Literally: "heavy + です."



重いです
おもい です か?
Is it heavy?
Literally: "heavy + です + か?"



(This is actually review, as we saw か being used this way in an earlier lesson.)

Technically, we don't need a question mark after か, and most of your Japanese textbooks probably won't use one. They'll just write:


重いです
おもい です か。
Is it heavy?
Literally: "heavy + です + か."



You'll find that Japanese people (as opposed to Japanese textbooks) very commonly use question marks in sentences like this, though.

Since か is used when asking questions in formal language, it is also used when making a sentence with a -ます form verb into a question:


 A: 
いつ来ます
いつ きます か?
When are you going to come?
Literally: “when + come + か.”



 B: 
明日行きます。
あした いきます。
I'll go tomorrow.
Literally: “tomorrow + go.”



To give another example, we've seen this sentence before:


どうする?
どう する?
What should we do?
Literally: "how + do?"



Quiz! How do we say that in formal language?

Hint #1: Use the -ます form.

Hint #2: Use か.

Answer:


どうします
どう します か?
What should we do?
Literally: "how + do + か?"



Since the verb する is being conjugated into -ます form, we can infer that the speaker and the listener are on formal terms. Also, since this is a question ending in a -ます form verb, it needs to be followed by か.

 



Still with me?

Let's see if you can answer this question for me, then:

What is the -ます form of the verb いる?

Hint: It's an ichidan verb.

Answer: 

...います!

Since います is the -ます form of いる, it should come as no surprise that the -ます form of present progressive verbs (which we looked at in a past lesson) is ~ています.

If you look at our previous lesson on ~ ている, you'll come across these sentences, where I compared "casual" language that is a bit stiff-sounding (=~ている) with everyday casual language (=~てる):


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.”



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.”



Note how in the more casual version, we are not only removing い from ~ている but also removing the particle を.

In a strictly formal sentence, however, we would use ~ています:


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



In spoken formal language, you'll typically hear ~ています getting shortened to just ~てます, which is technically a bit less formal. My guess is that this is so common simply because it's easier to say quickly. Don't write it in essays for your Japanese class, but feel free to use it when you practice speaking:


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



The particle may or may not be removed from this sentence. It depends on a lot of things, such as the speaker's preference and desired level of formality.

I wish that I could give you simple rules saying this is exactly how to say things formally and casually, drop particles in these cases only, etc.

In reality, though, Japanese is a bit messier than that. Formality is a nuanced, elusive concept, which makes it a bit difficult to learn all at once. For the most part, you'll be forced to master different levels of formality by getting high volumes of exposure to Japanese used by native speakers in a variety of formal and non-formal situations.

I'll try to help you as much as I can along the way.

 



To wrap things up, let's look at a short dialogue between two speakers. Person A is speaking formally, but Person B is speaking casually. Maybe Person B is older or holds a higher place in some social hierarchy (e.g. a company, a school, etc.):


 A: 
ナルトって知ってますか?
ナルト って しってます か?
Have you heard of Naruto? // Do you know Naruto?
Literally: “Naruto + って + are knowing?”
Note: If you're wondering what this って means, go check out this lesson: [NDL #422] - JLPT N3: って (topic marker).


 B: 
うん、知ってるよ。
うん、 しってる よ。
Yeah(, I have). // Yeah(, I do).
Literally: “yeah, + am knowing + よ.”



You might be wondering why in the world we say "am knowing" in Japanese instead of just using the verb 知る (しる // to know of) in the present tense, 知ります (しります) or 知る (しる). I have no good answer for you, but I can say that you should always use present progressive (~ている、~てる、~ています、~てます) when saying that you "know of" something or "have heard of" something.

When you don't know of something, however, you use the simple negative, 知らない (しらない), "I don't know." In formal language that'll be 知りません (しりません), but that's the topic of our next lesson!




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