LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Time-specific actions

Posted by Tae Kim

In this lesson, we will go over various ways to express actions that take place in a certain time-frame. In particular, we will learn how to say: 1) an action has just been completed, 2) an action is taken immediately after another action took place, 3) an action occurs while another action is ongoing, and 4) one continuously repeats an action.

Expressing what just happened with 「~ばかり」

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. すみません - sorry (polite)
  3. 今 【いま】 - now
  4. お腹 【お・なか】 - stomach
  5. いっぱい - full
  6. キロ - kilo
  7. 走る 【はし・る】 (u-verb) - to run
  8. 凄い 【すご・い】 (i-adj) - to a great extent
  9. 疲れる 【つか・れる】 (ru-verb) - to get tired
  10. 家 【1) うち; 2) いえ】 - 1) one's own home; 2) house
  11. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) - to go home
  12. 昼ご飯 【ひる・ご・はん】 - lunch
  13. もう - already
  14. 空く 【す・く】 (u-verb) - to become empty
  15. まさか - no way, you can't mean to say
  16. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) - to wake; to occur

This is a very useful grammar that is used to indicate that one has just finished doing something. For instance, the first time I really wished I knew how to say something like this was when I wanted to politely decline an invitation to eat because I had just eaten. To do this, take the past tense of verb that you want to indicate as just being completed and add 「ばかり」. This is used with only the past tense of verbs and is not to be confused with the 「ばかり」 used with nouns to express amounts.

Just like the other type of 「ばかり」 we have covered before, in slang, you can hear people use 「ばっか」 instead of 「ばかり」.

Using 「ばかり」 for actions just completed
  • To indicate that an action has ended just recently, take the past tense of the verb and add 「ばかり」.
    Example: 食べ食べ食べたばかり
  • For casual speech, you can abbreviate 「ばかり」 to just 「ばっか」
    Example: 食べたばかり → 食べたばっか

You can treat the result as you would with any noun.
Positive Negative
食べたばかり(だ) Just ate 食べたばかりじゃない Didn't just eat

Examples

  1. すみません食べたばかりなので、お腹いっぱいです。
    Sorry, but I'm full having just eaten.
  2. 10キロ走ったばかりで、凄く疲れた
    I just ran 10 kilometers and am really tired.
  3. 帰ったばかりです。
    I got back home just now.

Here are some examples of the abbreviated version.

  1. 昼ご飯食べたばっかなのに、もうお腹空いた
    Despite the fact that I just ate lunch, I'm hungry already.
  2. まさか起きたばっかなの?
    No way, did you wake up just now?

Express what occurred immediately after with 「とたん」

Vocabulary

  1. 開ける 【あ・ける】 (ru-verb) - to open
  2. 取る 【と・る】 (u-verb) - to take
  3. 窓 【まど】 - window
  4. 猫 【ねこ】 - cat
  5. 跳ぶ 【と・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to jump
  6. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  7. 観る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to watch
  8. トイレ - bathroom; toilet
  9. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  10. 眠い 【ねむ・い】(i-adj) - sleepy
  11. なる (u-verb) - to become

Kind of as a supplement to 「ばかり」, we will cover one way to say something happened as soon as something else occurs. To use this grammar, add 「とたん」 to the past tense of the first action that happened. It is also common to add the 「に」 target particle to indicate that specific point in time.

Using 「とたん」 to describe what happened immediately after
  • Change the verb that happened first to the past tense and attach 「とたん」 or 「とたんに」.
    Examples
    1. 開け開け開けたとたん(に)
    2. った取ったとたん(に)
  • ※Note: You can only use this grammar for things that happen outside your control.

Examples

  1. 開けたとたんに跳んでいった
    As soon as I opened window, cat jumped out.

For many more examples, check these examples sentences from our old trusty WWWJDIC.

An important thing to realize is that you can only use this grammar for things that occur immediately after something else and not for an action that you, yourself carry out. For instance, compare the following two sentences.

  • 映画観たとたんに、トイレ行きました
    (You carried out the action of going to the bathroom so this is not correct.)
  • 映画観たとたんに、眠くなりました
    (Since becoming sleepy is something that happened outside your control, this sentence is ok.)

Using 「ながら」 for two concurrent actions

Vocabulary

  1. 走る 【はし・る】 (u-verb) - to run
  2. テレビ - TV, television
  3. 観る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to watch
  4. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 - homework
  5. する (exception) - to do
  6. 音楽 【おん・がく】 - music
  7. 聴く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to listen (e.g. to music);
  8. 学校 【がっ・こう】 - school
  9. 歩く 【ある・く】 (u-verb) - to walk
  10. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable
  11. 相手 【あい・て】 - other party
  12. 何 【なに/なん】 - what
  13. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) - to say
  14. 自分 【じ・ぶん】 - oneself
  15. 気持ち 【き・も・ち】 - feeling
  16. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) - to understand
  17. 欲しい 【ほ・しい】 (i-adj) - desirable
  18. 単なる 【たん・なる】 - simply
  19. わがまま (na-adj) - selfish
  20. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) - to think
  21. ポップコーン - popcorn
  22. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  23. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  24. 口笛 【くち・ぶえ】 - whistle
  25. 手紙 【て・がみ】 - letter
  26. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) - to write

You can use 「ながら」 to express that one action is taking place in conjunction with another action. To use 「ながら」, you must change the first verb to the stem and append 「ながら」. Though probably rare, you can also attach 「ながら」 to the negative of the verb to express the negative. This grammar has no tense since it is determined by the second verb.

Using 「ながら」 for concurrent actions
  • Change the first verb to the stem and append 「ながら」
    Example
    走りながら
  • For the negative, attach 「ながら
    Example
    らない走らないながら

Examples

  1. テレビながら宿題する
    Do homework while watching TV.
  2. 音楽聴きながら学校歩くのが好き
    Like to walk to school while listening to music.
  3. 相手何も言わないながら自分気持ちわかってほしいのは単なるわがままだ思わない
    Don't you think that wanting the other person to understand one's feelings while not saying anything is just simply selfishness?

Notice that the sentence ends with the main verb just like it always does. This means that the main action of the sentence is the verb that ends the clause. The 「ながら」 simply describes another action that is also taking place. For example, if we switched the verbs in the first example to say, 「宿題ながらテレビ観る。」, this changes the sentence to say, "Watch TV while doing homework." In other words, the main action, in this case, becomes watching TV and the action of doing homework is describing an action that is taking place at the same time.

The tense is controlled by the main verb so the verb used with 「ながら」 cannot have a tense.

  1. ポップコーン食べながら映画観る
    Watch movie while eating popcorn.
  2. ポップコーン食べながら映画観た
    Watched movie while eating popcorn.
  3. 口笛ながら手紙書いていた
    Was writing letter while whistling.

Using 「ながら」 with state-of-being

Vocabulary

  1. 残念 【ざん・ねん】 (na-adj) - unfortunate
  2. 貧乏 【びん・ぼう】 (na-adj) - poor
  3. 仕事 【し・ごと】 - job
  4. いっぱい - full
  5. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) - to enter
  6. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  7. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  8. なる (u-verb) - to become
  9. 高級 【こう・きゅう】 (na-adj) - high class, high grade
  10. バッグ - bag
  11. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  12. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  13. 初心者 【しょ・しん・しゃ】 - beginner
  14. 実力 【じつ・りょく】 - actual ability
  15. プロ - pro
  16. 同じ 【おな・じ】 - same

A more advanced use of 「ながら」 is to use it with the implied state-of-being. In other words, you can use it with nouns or adjectives to talk about what something is while something else. The implied state-of-being means that you must not use the declarative 「だ」, you just attach 「ながら」 to the noun or adjective. For example, a common way this grammar is used is to say, "While it's unfortunate, something something..." In Japanese, this would become 「残念ながら・・・」

You can also attach the inclusive 「も」 particle to 「ながら」 to get 「ながらも」. This changes the meaning from "while" to "even while".

Using 「ながら」 or 「ながらも」 with state-of-being
  • To say [X] is something while something else, attach 「ながら」 to [X]
    Example
    残念残念ながら
  • To say [X] is something even while something else, attach 「ながらも」 to [X]
    Example
    貧乏貧乏ながらも

Examples

  1. 仕事いっぱい入って残念ながら今日行けなくなりました
    While it's unfortunate, a lot of work came in and it became so that I can't go today.
  2. 貧乏ながらも高級バッグ買っちゃったよ。
    Even while I'm poor, I ended up buying a high quality bag.
  3. は、初心者ながらも実力プロ同じだ。
    Even while he is a beginner, his actual skills are the same as a pro.

To repeat something with reckless abandon using 「まくる」

Vocabulary

  1. やる (u-verb) - to do
  2. ゲーム - game
  3. はまる (u-verb) - to get hooked
  4. 最近 【さい・きん】 - recent; lately
  5. パソコン - computer, PC
  6. 使う 【つか・う】 (u-verb) - to use
  7. アメリカ - America
  8. いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)
  9. 時 【とき】 - time
  10. コーラ - cola
  11. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink

The WWWJDIC very succinctly defines the definition of this verb as a "verb suffix to indicate reckless abandon to the activity". Unfortunately, it doesn't go on to tell you exactly how it's actually used. Actually, there's not much to explain. You take the stem of the verb and simply attach 「まくる」. However, since this is a continuing activity, it is an enduring state unless you're going to do it in the future. This is a very casual expression.

Using 「まくる」 for frequent actions
  • Change the first verb to the stem and append 「まくっている」.
    Example
    やりまくっている

You can use all the normal conjugations you would expect with any other verb.
Positive Negative
Non-Past やりまくっている
doing all the time
やりまくっていない
don't do all the time
Past やりまくっていた
did all the time
やりまくっていなかった
didn't do all the time

Examples

  1. ゲームはまっちゃって最近パソコン使いまくっているよ。
    Having gotten hooked by games, I do nothing but use the computer lately.
  2. アメリカいたコーラ飲みまくっていた
    When I was in the US, I drank coke like all the time.