LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Progressive Tense

Posted by Tae Kim

The progressive tense in most cases indicate an action that is ongoing. Some simple examples of the progressive tense is "I am watching a movie" or "I am eating". The same tense is also used to describe an ongoing state resulting from the action such as, "I am married". In order to learn the conjugation rule for this construction, we must first learn the te-form, a very useful verb form that we will use in many different types of grammar.

The te-form

The conjugation rule for ru-verbs and the exception verbs are fairly easy as you simply need to append 「て」 to the stem.

To change ru-verbs into the te-form
  • Drop the 「る」 part of the ru-verb (same as the stem) and add 「て」
    Examples
    1. 食べ → 食べ
    2. → 見

Conjugating a u-verb to the te-form is a bit more complex because we must break up u-verbs into four additional categories. These four categories depend on the last character of the verb. The list below has an example of a common verb with each different ending.

  1. 話す 【はな・す】(u-verb) - to speak
  2. 書く 【か・く】(u-verb) - to write
  3. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】(u-verb) - to swim
  4. 飲む 【の・む】(u-verb) - to drink
  5. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】(u-verb) - to play
  6. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】(u-verb) - to die
  7. 切る 【き・る】(u-verb) - to cut
  8. 買う 【か・う】(u-verb) - to buy
  9. 持つ 【も・つ】(u-verb) - to hold
  10. 行く 【い・く】(u-verb) - to go

The table below illustrated the four different categories and the conjugation rules for each using the list above.

There is also one additional exception for this conjugation: 「行く」

Te-form conjugations for u-verbs
Ending Non-Past changes to... Te-form
す → して して


く → いて
ぐ → いで
いて
いで




む → んで
ぶ → んで
ぬ → んで
んで
んで
んで




る → って
う → って
つ → って
って
って
って
      
Exception Verbs
Non-Past Te-form
する
来る
行く って*

* exceptions particular to this conjugation

Progressive Tense

In order to change a verb to the progressive tense, we simply need to attach a verb we already learned to the te-form. This is the ru-verb 「いる」 used to express existence of an animate object. In this case, it is used simply as a grammatical construct to express the progressive tense and has little to do with the original verb.

Using 「~ている」 for progressive tense
  • To describe a continuing action, first conjugate the verb to the te-form and then attach the ru-verb 「いる」.
  • Examples
    1. 食べ → 食べ → 食べている
    2. → 読んで → 読んでいる

The beauty and simplicity of this construction is because it ends in the ru-verb 「いる」, any additional conjugations are the same as any other ru-verb, including the polite form. This also applies to the past tense, which we will learn later.

Progressive Conjugation Examples
Positive Negative Positive Polite Negative Polite
Ru-verb 見ている 見ていない 見ています 見ていません
U-verb 読んでいる 読んでいない 読んでいます 読んでいません
Exception きている(来る)* きていない きています きていません
Exception している* していない しています していません
Exception 行っている* 行っていない 行っています 行っていません

* = exceptions

Walking dog

Example

  1. それ - that
  2. もう - already
  3. 知る 【し・る】(u-verb) - to acquire knowledge
  4. ペン - pen
  5. 持つ 【も・つ】(u-verb) - to hold
  6. 結婚 【けっ・こん】 - marriage
  7. 犬 【いぬ】 - dog
  8. 猫 【ねこ】 - cat
  9. 飼う 【か・う】(u-verb) - to keep; to raise (pets in particular)
  10. 太る 【ふと・る】(u-verb) - to get fat
  11. 痩せる 【や・せる】(ru-verb) - to get skinny
  1. それは、もう知っているよ。
    (I) know that already. (lit: In state of having acquired that knowledge already.)
  2. ペンを持っている
    Do (you) have (a) pen? (lit: In state of holding (owning) pen?)
  3. 結婚していますか?
    Are (you) married? (lit: In state of being married?)
  4. 何もしていません
    Not doing anything.
  5. 犬を飼っている
    Raising a dog.
  6. 猫は、飼っていない
    Not raising a cat.
  7. 猫は、太っている
    (The) cat is fat. (lit: Cat is in state of having gotten fat.)
  8. 犬は、痩せている
    (The) dog is skinny. (lit: Dog is in state of having gotten skinny.)

Where do you live?

  1. 住む 【す・む】(u-verb) - to reside at
  2. 寮 【りょう】 - dormitory
  3. 見かける 【み・かける】(ru-verb) - to happen to see
  4. ずっと - for a long time or distance
  5. 東 【ひがし】 - east
  6. 方 【ほう】 - direction
  7. 所 【ところ】 - place
  8. そんなに - that much
  9. 遠い 【とお・い】(i-adj) - far
  10. 一年生 【いち・ねん・せい】 - first year; freshman
  11. 選ぶ 【えら・ぶ】(u-verb) - to choose
  12. 一番 【いち・ばん】 - #1; the best; -est
  13. 遅い 【おそ・い】(i-adj) - late

アリス: リー君は、今どこに住んでいるの?
Alice: Lee-kun, where are you residing at now?

リー: 寮に住んでいるよ。
Lee: (I'm) living in the dorm.

アリス: そうなの?あまり見かけないけど、どこの寮?
Alice: Is that so? (I) don't see (you) much, dorm of where?

リー: ずっと東の方にある所。
Lee: The place that's at the far east direction.

アリス: どうしてそんなに遠い所に住んでいるの?
Alice: Why are you living in such a far place?

リー: 一年生だから、住む所を選ぶのが一番遅い。
Lee: (I'm) a freshman so (we're) the latest to select a place to live.

Shortened progressive form

The 「い」 from 「いる」 can be dropped in more casual situations.

Example

  1. 何をしてるの?
    What are (you) doing?
  2. 何を読んでるの?
    What are (you) reading?
  3. 犬は、飼ってない
    Don't own a dog.
  4. ペンを持ってる
    Do (you) have (a) pen?