451 - ~ている (narrative present tense)

I mentioned this in another lesson, but the "present progressive tense" in Japanese does not always match up with the way we use this tense in English.

We already saw one example of this: [NDL #449] - JLPT N4: ~ている (original shape).

In this lesson, we're looking at how this tense can be used for historical events, career history, and so on (i.e. things that happened in the past)...


JLPT N2: ~ている (narrative present tense)

Explaining this grammar point makes it sound complicated, but it's pretty straightforward if you look at an example:

マンモスははるかな昔に絶滅している
マンモス は はるかな むかし に ぜつめつ している。
The (woolly) mammoth went extinct long in the past.
Literally: “(woolly) mammoth + は + far / distant + olden days / long ago + に + extinction + is doing.”

Obviously the woolly mammoth is not going extinct as we speak. It went extinct はるかな昔に.

But we're using the "narrative present tense" while talking about this past event. Because grammar stuff.

We could in fact use the past tense here:

マンモスははるかな昔に絶滅した
マンモス は はるかな むかし に ぜつめつ した。
The (woolly) mammoth went extinct long in the past.
Literally: “(woolly) mammoth + は + far / distant + olden days / long ago + に + extinction + did.”

So what's the difference?!

Well, they're pretty much the same, but using the ~ている form gives off more of the nuance that this is a continuing state. The woolly mammoth went extinct and continues to be extinct.

This matches up nicely with the usage of ~ている that we looked at in this N4 lesson, in which we described the (ongoing) original state of things.


Formation:

If you are not familiar with ending verbs with ~ている, then maybe you shouldn't be studying for N2 just yet.

Luckily we looked at the formation in that past lesson.


A few examples, and then we'll be done!

彼女は20代のときに、エベレスト登頂を成し遂げている
かのじょ は にじゅう だい の とき に、 エベレスト とうちょう を なしとげている。
She successfully climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest when she was in her twenties.
Literally: “she + は + twenties + の + time / when + に, + Everest + climbing to the summit + を + is accomplishing.”

カナダは1976年に死刑を廃止している
カナダ は せんきゅうひゃくななじゅうろく ねん に しけい を はいし している。
Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.
Literally: “Canada + は + 1976 (year) + に + death penalty + を + abolition + is doing.”

ホリーさんは法律の専門学校を卒業しているので、法律に詳しいです。
ホリーさん は ほうりつ の せんもん がっこう を そつぎょう している ので、 ほうりつ に くわしい です。
Holly is a law school graduate, so she knows a lot about the law.
Literally: “Holly-san + は + law + の + technical school (=specialty school) + を + graduation + is doing + because (=ので), + law + に + well-informed + です.”


It may help to note that ~ている does not only correspond to the present progressive in English (e.g. "is doing") but also the present perfect (e.g. "has done") in some cases.

From that viewpoint, this usage of ~ている makes even more sense.

These N2 lessons are a lot less complicated than some of our N3 and N4 lessons, yeah? That's good, since by the time we get to N2, I think we're all pretty tired of new grammar.

Discussion

0 comments