言っていました vs. 言いました

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Nucleara

Senior Member
こんにちわ,

I'm a bit confused about the difference between 「言っていました」 and「言いました」in this example:

1. 田中さんはあした休むと言っていました。

2. 田中さんはあした休むと言いました。

What I understand is that 言っていました acts like a transitive verb (told "me/us" that...) while 言いました acts like a intransitive verb (said that...), but both are indirect speech.

So am I right, or does anyone has a better explanation?

ありがとうございます
Nucleara
 
  • Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Sorry for the nitpick but こんにちは. Writing the greeting with わ is undoubtedly an informal version, but we prefer the version you can use wherever you go. After all, this is a language learning site, and you need to tolerate some educational high-handedness.

    Now, the difference of the verb forms. It's not about transitive v. intransitive. It's more to do with aspect. Aspect (as opposed to tense and mood) is an expression of what part of the action denoted the speaker wants to focus. Is the speaker talking about the whole action? or or only a part of it?

    The teiru-form is the marker of the imperfective aspect. By imperfective I mean part of an action, or an action that is so big that it continues into the time outside the framework of the speaker's speech. The markers of perfective aspect are -ta and -ru. Whether the action is located in the past, the present, or the future, perfective aspect means that the speaker wants to talk about it as a single unit, small enough in size to be fitted into the speaker's frame of reference.

    So much for the theoretical basis. The imperfective いっていました means that Tanaka was still "saying" that he would be off from work tomorrow when the speaker finished their speech. In other words, there will be a surprise if Tanaka shows up to work next day. In not-so-much stark contrast, the perfective いいました refers to a completed action. Typically, the utterance is followed by a description of what immediately followed Tanaka's remark. It may be a colleague gossiping about Tanaka's health or the boss showing displeasure, and so on. I don't necessarily suggest that the boss overruled Tanaka's leave, but it will come with far less surprise if Tanaka could not take a day off than it would be with the perfective いっていました.
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    @#1:
    You're correct.

    2. 田中さんはあした休むと言いました。
    Tanaka said that he would take a day off the next day.

    1. 田中さんはあした休むと言っていました。
    I heard from Tanaka that he would take a day off the next day.
    Tanaka told me that he/she would take a day off the next day.


    2 is a simple and general statement what Tanaka said in the past.
    It is not clear to whom Tanaka said it. If it's a narration in a book, the listener would be the readers of that book. If it's a narration in a movie, the listener would be the audience of that movie, although the speaker/writer (the first person of that statement) can be the person who heard from Tanaka.

    1, however, strongly indicates that "I" or the speaker/writer heard from him/her what he/she was saying.
    Therefore, 1 shows the first person's involvement, as you said in the #1. It cannot be a narration.
     
    Last edited:

    Nucleara

    Senior Member
    @Flaminius Thank you very much. The explanation using the imperfective/perfective aspects is a great one and I think I kind of see the difference now.
    By the way, my mistake of writing こんにちwas unconcious and I didn't know that it happens to be an informal version of writing. So, your correction to that was appreciated, thank you.

    @SoLaTiDoberman By looking at it from the aspect of narration makes it easy to understand! Thank you very much.
     
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