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When did it all happen?

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Expressing time-specific actions

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 an action that was just completed using 「~ばかり」

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


(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?

Using 「とたん」 to express something that occurred immediately after an action

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 indicate one thing happened right after another


(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.

(誤) 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.)

(正) 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

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 for express the negative. This grammar has no tense since it is determined by the second verb.
Using 「ながら」 for concurrent actions


(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 (1) 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 to mean "while"

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」 with state of being to mean "while" or 「ながらも」 to mean "even while"


(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」

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
You can use all the normal conjugations you would expect with any other verb.
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


(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.
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This page has last been revised on 2004/12/18