This post is a continuation of:  => The “…te imasu” Sentence (1)


3. Bonus:  Two more popular meanings of the “…te imasu” sentence
    (1) A present state with a Verb of Going in One Direction
    (2) Past action/event in special circumstances
4. Summary of the uses of the “…te imasu” sentence

3. Bonus: Two more popular meanings of the “…te imasu” sentence

(1) “…te imasu” can express a present state [location] with a Verb of Going in One Direction

Do you like to receive a post card? We do, and we like to send them, too. Particularly when we have a trip to an unusual place, we try to buy a couple of picture cards and send them to our family, friends or students, one at a time.

When we write, we usually start like this:

Example 1: 「おげんですか。わたし水曜すいようからとうきょうています。きのうはとうきょうスカイツリーにきました……」O-genki desu ka? Watashi wa ima Tookyoo ni imasu. Kinoo wa Tokyo Tower ni ikimashita… (How are you? I have been in Tokyo since Wednesday. I went to Tokyo Skytree yesterday…)

“Tookyoo ni kite imasu” means “I came to Tokyo and I have been staying here since then”. Note it doesn’t mean “I am on the way to Tokyo.”

This grammar applies to other “Verbs of Going in One Direction“. With these verbs, the “…te imasu” sentence means that someone travelled to a place and has been there (at the destination) since then.

Here are two examples:

Ex. 2: ははごとっています。Haha wa shigoto ni itte imasu. [My mother is at work.—She went to work earlier in the day and has been staying there.]

Ex. 3: 「あ、ゆうこちゃん、かえっているんだね!」”A, Yuuko-chan, kaette iru-n-da-ne!” [Ah, Little Yuko, you are home now!—said to me by a neighbor in Saitama who has known me since my childhood. The neighbor knows that I live in a foreign country. When I briefly visit my mother at her house, I am described as “kaette imasu” (came home and has been staying in my hometown) during that period.]

We use this grammar to express “a state”, but we wanted to offer examples with Verbs of Going in One Direction apart from Verbs of Actions for Change. If you would like to see examples with “Verbs of Actions for Change”, please see => The “…te imasu” Sentence (1), 2, (2).

(2) “…te imasu” can show a past action/event

The “…te imasu” sentence can also show the past tense in special circumstances. Below are two of them:

i-a. When the action or event is related with the present state

First, we use it when the past action/event has some relationship with the present state. The following is our example, but it was inspired by a conversation in the Supplementary Reading Book of Minna-no-Nihongo vol. 1.

Line 1 つま: どうして今日きょうごみさなかったの? Tsuma: Dooshite kyoo gomi dasanakatta no? (Wife: Why didn’t you take the trash out?)

Line 2 おっと今日きょういそがしいから、きみがごみててってったよ。Otto: Kyoo wa isogashii kara, kimi ga gomi sutetette itta yo. (Husband: I told you to take it out since I would be busy today.)

Line 3 つまわなかった。わたしいていない。Tsuma: Iwanakatta. Watashi wa kiite nai. (Wife: You didn’t say that. I didn’t hear.)

Line 4 おっとった! Otto: Itta! (Husband: I told you!)

Line 5 つまっていない! Tsuma: Itte inai! (Wife: You didn’t!)

i-b. The analysis of the example conversation

In this conversation, in Line 3, the wife says わなかった Iwanakatta (You didn’t say it). This is the simple past tense. Then she says わたしいていない watashi wa kiite inai (I didn’t hear/haven’t heard it), an alternative past tense expression. She is using the “…te imasu” expression (of course in the negative) to emphasize that she didn’t know the request until this moment, and therefore she hasn’t taken any action on it at present.

In Line 4, the husband returns with った!Itta! (I said it!) It is the simple past and it means he said it and the matter was complete at that point of time.

The wife insists: っていない! Itte inai! (You didn’t!) It is again the “…te imasu”, and it means that he didn’t say it, and that therefore she couldn’t have known that she was supposed to take out the trash until this moment.

By the way, you don’t have to use this grammar spontaneously since you can always say it with the simple past. But it is important to know that the “…te imasu” can mean the past when you hear or read it.

If you do want to use it, be careful when you use it with a Verb Expressing Actions for Change, where the meaning would be ambiguous. (For details, => The “…te imasu” Sentence (1))

ii-a. When you recount an action/event in a historical period

There is another circumstance we would like you to know in which the “… te imasu” expresses the past. Please see the following examples:

Ex. 4: その女優じょゆう回結婚かいけっこんしていますが、しあわせだったのは3結婚けっこん最初さいしょの8カ月間げつかんだけでした。Sono joyuu wa go-kai kekkon shite imasu ga, shiawase datta no wa san-do-me no kekkon no saisho no hakkagetsu-kan dake deshita. (The actress got married five times, but she was only happy during the first eight months of her third marriage.)

Ex. 5: そのざんは12せいに2回噴かいふんしています。Sono kazan wa juuni-seeki ni ni-kai hunka-shite imasu. (The volcano erupted twice in the 12th century.)

Ex. 6: かれ米国べいこくへ来まえにアジアで10ねん、アフリカで12年会社ねんかいしゃ経営けいえいし、どちらにも成功せいこうしています。Kare wa beekoku e kuru mae ni Ajia de juu-nen, Ahurika de juu-ni nen kaisha o keeee shi, dochira nimo seekoo shite imasu. (Before coming to the US, he ran businesses in Asia for ten years and in Africa for twelve years and was successful in both.)

ii-b. The analyses of the example sentences

It happens when you recount a past action/event in a historical period or when you talk or write about a period in the past in the life of a person, or during the active period of something including a community, organization, etc. We don’t use it for just any action or event but for something special which characterizes the period.

Again you don’t have to use this spontaneously since you can just say it in the simple past. It will be enough to understand when you read or hear it. The difference is only a nuance. It means this expression gives the feeling of more historical recounting, since we never use it for past actions/events in daily life.

If you do want to use it in your sentences, use it mixed with other sentences in the simple past, and do not use it too many times in one paragraph. The reason is to avoid ambiguity. Also, there is no restriction in the type of the verb for this expression.

4. Summary of the uses of the “…te imasu” sentence

Here are the five functions of  the “…te imasu” sentence that we discussed in these posts.

If you encounter an example for a different one, please let us know. We would like to think about them.

  1. Ongoing action/phenomenon (with Verbs Expressing Lasting Actions)
  2. Current habitual action (with Verbs Expressing Lasting Actions)
  3. Present state (with Verbs Expressing Actions for Change)
  4. Present state [location] (with Verbs of Going in One Direction)
  5. Past action/events in special circumstances

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