Table of Contents
- What Is ている?
- ている for the Present Continuous
- ている for States
- ている for States as Results
- ている for Adjective-Like Usages
- ている for Habits/Things that Are Repeatedly Happening
- "Already ている" and "ていない Yet"
What Is ている?
〜ている is often described as the Japanese equivalent of the English "present continuous" or "to be -ing" form. Although there is quite a lot of overlap, there are lots of situations when 〜ている is not used in the same way as the English "present continuous."
To turn a verb into the ている form, first conjugate the verb into the て Form (Verb Conjugation) and then add 〜いる onto the end.
〜ている can be used for a continuing action, a state, or the result of a change. Before going into all the usages, one thing that we want you to be aware of is that 〜ている often becomes 〜てる in casual situations. You'll see this ending in some of our example sentences—don't make a rash decision to report us to the grammar police 😉
ている for the Present Continuous
This is the usage that's like "to be -ing" in English. To describe something that's continuously happening at the moment you are speaking, like "someone is doing something," you can use 〜ている. For example, if your dad is watching TV in the living room, you can say:
- Dad is watching TV in the living room.
This one is straightforward, right?
ている for States
〜ている describes something continuously happening. However, you'll soon learn that English "to be -ing" equivalent doesn't always work. Let's take a look at an example:
- I live in Tokyo.
住んでいる is the ている form of 住む, which is equivalent to the English verb "to live." In English, we usually say "I live in…" instead of "I am living in…" unless we want to stress that it is a temporary living situation. That's because in English we consider the verb "to live" to be describing a state rather than a dynamic action. These kinds of verbs, called "stative verbs" are used in the present continuous form in English when you want to emphasize the temporary nature of the situation. However, in Japanese, no matter whether it's a temporary situation or not, we use 住んでいる for current (and sometimes future) living situations because the action is continuously happening.
ている for States as Results
The Japanese verb 知る is often translated as "to know," but technically a more accurate translation would be "to get to know something" because what 知る actually means is the change of the state from "not knowing" to "knowing." When the piece of information enters your brain, that's 知る.
So what about when you have the information stored in your brain and simply want to say "I know something"? That's when we use 〜ている.
Let's say your friend asks you if you know that 〜ている can be used for things like "I live in Tokyo." You'll say:
- Oh yeah, I know.
Because you already learned it (like a minute ago), you deserve to say you know it. Notice that the example is using 〜ている here. This is because the status of your knowledge has changed from "not knowing" to "knowing."
If your friend asked you how you got to know about it, you'd say something like:
- I learned that on the Tofugu website.
(Literally: I got to know that on the website called Tofugu.)
You use the past tense of 知る here because you're describing the change from "not knowing" to "knowing."
A similar example of this is 分かる (to understand). 分かる focuses on the change of state from "not understanding" to "understanding," but 分かっている describes the state of you already understanding.
ている for Adjective-Like Usages
Similarly, some Japanese verbs in the ている form are used like adjectives. For example, 太る is a verb meaning "to get fat."
- Our cat is fat.
As the result of getting fat, this cat is now fat. That's why we use the ている form. So if you wanted to emphasize the change "to get fat" rather than how your cat is like now, you could say:
- Our cat has gotten fat.
ている for Habits/Things that Are Repeatedly Happening
We also use the ている form for habits or other things which are (and have been) repeatedly happening. This is similar to how in English we might say "I'm always forgetting things."
- I've been eating natto recently.
- There have been a lot of fights happening every day at this bar.
"Already ている" and "ていない Yet"
Earlier, we mentioned that 〜ている can be used for describing the result of a change. This applies to situations in English where we say "have (already) done" and "have not done (yet)." For example, you and your friend are doing a Yelp search for a coffee shop to meet at for a morning coffee. It's still early, so some coffee shops haven't opened yet.
- This coffee shop has already opened.
You'd use 〜ている for this because the coffee shop is open because of a change, which is:
- This coffee shop opened at 4 o'clock.
The coffee shop opened (at 4 a.m. — wow!), so it is already open. However, what do you say if it isn't open yet?
- This coffee shop hasn't opened yet.
Use 〜ていない, the negative form of 〜ている, for those "not yet" situations. Let's look at another example to give you a clearer idea.
- The coffee shop doesn't open yet.
This example simply uses the negative form of the verb 開く, instead of the negative form of 〜ている, which is 〜ていない. Since this one focuses on the change "the coffee shop gets opened," it sounds like the coffee shop doesn't open anytime soon. On the other hand, the previous example that used 〜ていない is describing the current state of not having been opened yet.