449 - ~ている (original shape)

The present progressive tense (also called the present continuous tense) often matches up with usages of its English counterpart.

That is, ~ている often corresponds to "be ~ing" in English.

An example:

勉強してる。
べんきょう してる。
I'm studying.
Literally: "studies + am doing."

Much more formally, that would be written as ~しています, or slightly more formally as ~している.

It kind of makes sense that ~ている corresponds to "be ~ing" when we consider that ~いる is a helping verb (specifically, an auxiliary verb) meaning "to be." Not that you need to know that.

However, by now we are all well aware that Japanese and English grammar don't match up perfectly. And sometimes ~ている will not match up with "be ~ing."

For example, we have today's grammar point to consider:



JLPT N4: ~ている (original shape)

You're probably thinking, What does "original shape" mean?

Well, sometimes ~ている can be used when describing the original essence or shape of a thing.

This makes a lot more sense when you see it in an example:

妹は母によく似ています
いもうと は はは に よく にています。
My younger sister looks a lot like my mother.
Literally: “younger sister + は + mother + に + well / very much + is resembling.”

Here we have the verb 似る (にる // to resemble; to look like; to take after) conjugated into the ~ている (=present progressive) form 似ています (にています).

So if we tried to translate this sentence literally, it might sound something like:

My younger sister is looking a lot like my mother.

In English, that would lead us to believe that my younger sister does not normally look like my mother, but she does right now.

The Japanese sentence, however, is using ~ている (well, its more polite form ~ています) to say that this is an ongoing state or appearance. In other words, my younger sister has always looked like my mother; that's just how she looks. It is the original shape of her face, if you will.

This is why we used the simple present tense for our English translation:

妹は母によく似ています
いもうと は はは に よく にています。
My younger sister looks a lot like my mother.
Literally: “younger sister + は + mother + に + well / very much + is resembling.”



You may already know this, but the auxiliary verb いる attaches to the て-form of a verb.

Verbs:
似る(にる // to resemble; to look like; to take after
面する(めんする // to look out on; to face
曲がる(まがる // to be crooked; to bend; to turn; to curve
優れる(すぐれる // to excel; to surpass

V て:
似て(にて
面して(めんして
曲がって(まがって
優れて(すぐれて

If you don't know how to conjugate verbs into て-form, see this lesson: [NDL #329] - JLPT N5: て-form (Introduction).

V ている

似ているにている // [lit.] be resembling; be looking like
面しているめんしている // [lit.] be looking out on; be facing
曲がっているまがっている // [lit.] being crooked; be bending; be turning; be curving
優れているすぐれている // [lit.] be excelling; be surpassing

More formal:

似ていますにています // [lit.] be resembling; be looking like
面していますめんしています // [lit.] be looking out on; be facing
曲がっていますまがっています // [lit.] being crooked; be bending; be turning; be curving
優れていますすぐれています // [lit.] be excelling; be surpassing


Let's see some more examples of ~ている describing original states and/or appearances of things:

ニューヨークは大西洋に面しています
ニューヨーク は たいせいよう に めんしています。
New York looks out on the Atlantic Ocean.
Literally: “New York + は + Atlantic Ocean + に + is facing on / is looking out on.”

I think it's a little strange to say that a city "looks out on" an ocean. But then, the only other way I found 面する (めんする) being translated in this type of sentence was as "faces," and I didn't think "New York faces the Atlantic Ocean" sounded all that much better.

Anyways, note that we are talking about an original, unchanging aspect of New York: the fact that it is right up beside the Atlantic Ocean, and we are describing this original, unchanging aspect with ~ている.



ぼくの鼻は生まれつきちょっと曲がっています
ぼく の はな は うまれつき ちょっと まがっています。
I was born with a somewhat crooked nose.
Literally: “I + の + nose + は + by/from birth + a little + is crooked / is bent.”


The sentence is explicitly saying that the speaker's bent nose is something that he or she has had from birth. It is the original shape of the nose, and we are describing it with ~ている.



このタイヤは耐久性に優れています
この タイヤ は たいきゅうせい に すぐれています。
This tire has excellent durability.
Literally: “this + tire + は + durability + に + is excelling.”


This tire has excellent durability by its very nature. That's how it started out, and that's how it still is. We describe it with ~ている.



I don't think that the concepts covered in this lesson are too difficult.

What's difficult, rather, is trying to decide how you want to conjugate a verb while you're speaking (and don't have time to be thinking carefully about all of this stuff).

It will feel painful initially.

In time, it gets easier. Even if "in time" means a lot of time.

Oh, also, we have a fun article about this very topic on our site: Choosing the Right Verb Tenses in Japanese.




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