Using Verb Continuous Form (〜ている )

    • Verb
    Verbs ending in 〜ている are often described as being the Japanese equivalent of the English "present continuous" or "-ing" form. Although there is quite a lot of overlap, 〜ている is not always used in the same way as the English "present continuous."

    Table of Contents

    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:

    • お父さんはリビングでテレビを観てる
    • 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:

    • 私は東京に住んでいる
    • 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.

    difference between 知る and 知っている

    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:

    • ああ、知っている
    • 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:

    • トーフグというウェブサイトで、知っ
    • 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."

    • うちの猫は太っている
    • 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:

    • うちの猫は太っ
    • 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."

    • 最近納豆を食べている
    • I've been eating natto recently.
    • このバーでは毎日たくさんの喧嘩が起きている
    • There have been a lot of fights happening every day at this bar.

    "Already ている" and "ていない Yet"

    difference between ていない and ている in timeline

    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.

    • このカフェはもう開いている
    • 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:

    • このカフェは4時に開い
    • 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?

    • このカフェはまだ開いていない
    • 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.

    • そのカフェはまだ開かない
    • 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.

    Other Forms of ている

    As a quick reminder of how you conjugate verbs to fit 〜ている, turn them into the て Form (Verb Conjugation) and add いる at the end. Remember that verbs that come before 〜ている need to be in the て form.

    Here's a list of other forms of 〜ている using the verb 書く(to write) as an example. Note that 〜ている conjugates just like ichidan verbs.

    Form 日本語 English
    Plain Polite
    Present Form 食べてい 食べています is eating
    Negative Form 食べていない 食べていません is not eating
    Past Form 食べてい 食べていました was eating
    Volitional Form 食べていよう 食べていましょう let's be eating
    て Form 食べてい is eaten, (and)
    please be eating
    Command Form 食べてい keep eating!
    Conditional Form 食べていれば if is eating...