1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

ている vs the dictionary form

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by John_Doe, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. John_Doe Senior Member

    I've just learned that the -teiru form can be used when describing habitual actions, but...hey, what about the old dictionary form or the -masu form then?

    I mean, are they both interchangeable in that usage or not? Is it correct to say, 私は毎日日本語を勉強する。?
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
  2. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    I feel the している form is a little more concrete.
    Maybe the いる part of している more or less has retained its original meaning: existence.
    The して part is the way something exists. (在り方、存在のし方)

    毎日日本語を勉強している states what you have actually done. It refers to some facts which were observed.
    毎日日本語を勉強する states a general rule or your intent.

    この間・最近、毎日日本語を勉強しています。I think I would not use 勉強します because the fact happened in the past. But I think 勉強します is also ok.

    When describing other people's habits, unless you know them very well, you would usually use している.

    Likewise, the dictionary form is sometimes used to describe very abstract relations while the usage is not allowed for concrete ones.

    The usage of している seems to be a very difficult topic. (Maybe it's easier than は)
    I used the word concrete, but the word itself is not concrete at all.
    Sorry I can't help much.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
  3. nagoyano Senior Member

    The ending --ている --teiru indicates that the action, the custom or the status is kept on.
    私は毎日一マイル泳ぐ(泳ぎます) --- This simply describe your swimming habit.
    私は毎日一マイル泳いでいる(泳いでいます) --- This emphasises that you keep on your habit every day.
    The difference is only a nuance. These two do not real difference at least in daily conversation.
    In my opinion, Japanese people more often use the latter than the former.
    The former seems to be very straight and strong.
    The latter seems to be soft and mild.
  4. Tonky Senior Member

    What YangMuye-san said above. (except that I don't really get what he or she meant by "concrete".)
    ~ています・ている for an ongoing habit, ~ます or dictionary form for a habit with the speaker's intention. (sometimes decision and not an actual habit yet.)

    Just one small mistake in the example sentence↓
  5. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    Thank you for your correction.

    I think concrete = individual; abstract = class.
    An occurrence of an action is more concrete than a type of action.
    している usually involves events, experience of observation or evidence.


    The individuality of a person or thing consists of the qualities that make them different from other people or things.
    A sentence usually contains something special or different. (= new information/focus)

    An occurrence of action or an event is individual enough to make it different from others.
    した and している usually carry new information by themselves.
    する does not.

    When you are talking about an concrete event, as every event is supposed to be an individual one. It happens at different time and in a different place. It is totally different from others events. What kind of thing happened is important. All details related to the event are new information.

    The meaning of the dictionary form is very hard to analyse.
    We don't usually say 彼は日本語を勉強します in the habitual sense.

    I think when you use the dictionary form to express habit, the focus is usually not on the verb.

    People usually wake up at a particular time everyday. 3時に is special.
    私は起きます does not make sense.

    We know people usually have preference. Meat is different from other foods.

    Everyone may study Japanese, but at a different frequency.

    Occasionally, the focus is on the verb.

    毎日日本語を勉強する can also be an answer to "what do you do everyday?".
    You don't do everything regularly everyday, which makes learning Japanese a little different from other things.

    We say
    Of course, not everyone speaks, not every bird flies, only hens lay eggs, but the statements do not need to be false.
    We know not all animal speak, so 話す makes 人間 little different.
    We also know humans cannot do everything, 話す is a special type of action which we do.
    In this context, these sentences are perfectly acceptable.

    Such background knowledge seems very important when you understand habitual senses.

    In Chinese, sentences consist only verbs such as 人说话(人間は話す) are very wired when left alone.
    The fact is too obvious that the listener cannot understand why the speaker will say it.
    鸟飞,鱼游 (魚は泳ぐ、鳥は飛ぶ) is much better, but it sounds like a proverb.

    他读书(彼は本を読む) or 他过去读书(昔本を読んだ) don't sound like any concrete events but something like “彼は本が嫌いじゃない”.


    When the subject of the sentence is I, the sentence is usually understood as your intent and you will keep on doing it.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013

Share This Page