428 - ~たことがある (have done)

In this lesson, we're looking at how to talk about experiences.

Specifically, we're exploring the closest Japanese equivalent to the present perfect used for describing past experience in English.

Wha?

For example, this is simple past: "I went to Thailand."

This is present perfect: "I have been to Thailand."

We're looking at the Japanese equivalent to the second of these, which is:

JLPT N4: ~たことがある (have done)

You may recall that in the last N4 lesson, we looked at a different usage of what is, essentially, the same grammatical formation: [NDL #421] - JLPT N4: ~たことがある (special past experience).

Once again, here is how we form this:

V-PAST~ことがある

We could also rewrite that as V + ことがある.

Let's say we wanted to say "I have been to Thailand." Any ideas what that'd be in Japanese?

First, I should point out that the Japanese will be closer to something like "I have gone to Thailand."

The verb we'll be using is 行く (いく // to go).

We want to put it into plain past form, which is...

...come on. You know this, yeah? (If not, don't hate yourself, but do go and learn your basic conjugations before even thinking about N4).

It's 行った (いった // went)!

And the word for Thailand is タイ.

So...

タイに行っことがあります
タイ に いった ことがあります。
I have been to Thailand.
Literally: "Thailand + に + went + ことがあります."

Or, a little less formally, we could say:

タイに行っことがある
タイ に いった ことがある。
I have been to Thailand.
Literally: "Thailand + に + went + ことがある."

Make sense?

If not, I must be a bad teacher.


Casual kids hate the JLPT.

Above I showed a "polite / formal" version of a sentence and then a more casual one, yeah?

Well, that "casual" sentence above is really just casual by JLPT standards. In truly casual Japanese it is extremely common to drop particles, but they don't really do that on the JLPT.

So if you're hanging out with friends, for example, a conversation like this may occur:

A:
タイ行っことある
タイ いった こと ある?
Have you ever been to Thailand?
Literally: "Thailand + went + ことある?"

B:
ない。
No (I haven't).
Literally: "have not / there is not."

See how the に and the が disappeared (compare with the earlier sentences)?

Particles get dropped like that all the time.

Just something to keep in mind. I'm assuming we all want to have Japanese friends that we can talk casually with, yeah?


In preparation for our customary onslaught of example sentences, here are all of the verbs showing up in this lesson:

行く(いく // to go
乗る(のる // to ride; to board
住む(すむ // to live [in a place]
会う(あう // to meet
習う(ならう // to learn

We'll be seeing four of these in plain past tense:

行った(いった // went
乗った(のった // rode
住んだ(すんだ // lived
会った(あった // met

行っことがあるいったことがある // have gone
乗っことがあるのったことがある // have ridden
住んことがあるすんだことがある // have lived
会っことがあるあったことがある // have met

Though we'll always have a plain past tense verb attaching to ~ことがある, sometimes, like we'll see with 習う, we'll actually have an auxiliary verb (=a helping verb) attaching to it:

習っていた(ならっていた // was learning
習っていことがあるならっていたことがある // had been learning; had learned

Note that the auxiliary verb here is ~いる, translated to ~いた.

Anyways, conjugations are BORING.

😪 😪 😪 😪

...so let's get to the examples!


わたしは一度、ヘリコプターに乗っことがあります
わたし は いちど、 ヘリコプター に のった ことがあります。
I’ve ridden a helicopter once before.
Literally: “I + は + one time, + helicopter + に + rode + ことがあります.”


Now, I don't want to confuse anyone, but note that our translation does not necessarily have to be in the present perfect tense. For example, take a look at this sentence:

わたしは若いころ、ペルシャ語を習っていことがある
わたし は わかい ころ、 ペルシャご を ならっていた ことがある。
I studied Persian when I was young.
Literally: “I + は + young + (approximate) time, + Persian (language) + を + was learning + ことがある.”

We don't need to say "had studied" in the translation. Rather, the more natural English in this case is the simple past, "studied."

Why? Well, to quote my mom, "Because I said so."

(Now that I'm older, I've learned that "Because I said so" really means, "I can't explain it, so shut up.")


Note also that we don't necessarily need to have が before ある. Sometimes it will be more appropriate to use は, as in this sentence:

上海に行ったことありますが、北京に行っことありません
シャンハイ に いった ことはあります が、 ペキン に いった ことはありません。
I’ve been to Shanghai before, but I’ve never been to Beijing.
Literally: “Shanghai + に + went + ことはあります + が, + Beijing + に + went + ことはありません.”
Note: This is the は of contrast. See this lesson to learn more about it: [NDL #315] - JLPT N5: は~が、~は.

Oh, and we can also see from this example that this grammatical formation works for things that we did not experience.


今までに色んな場所に住んことがありますが、横浜が一番住みやすいです。
いままで に いろんな ばしょ に すんだ ことがあります が、 よこはま が いちばん すみやすい です。
Up until now I’ve lived in a lot of places, and Yokohama is the easiest place to live.
Literally: “Now + until + に + various + places + に + lived + ことがあります + が, + Yokohama + が + the most (=number one) + easy to live + です.”


A:
芸能人に会っことがありますか。
げいのうじん に あった ことがありますか。
Have you ever met a celebrity?
Literally: “celebrity + に + met + ことがあります + か.”

B:
いいえ、ありません。
いいえ、 ありません。
No, I haven’t.
Literally: “no + do not have / there is not.”


What do you think? Not too hard?

You may wish to read through this lesson a few times. Then maybe think of some experiences and try to write them down (or just say them in your head).

Once you've mastered the usage of ~たことがある, I can guarantee you that you'll use it all the time.




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