use だった/かった for present state

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
目を開くと、そこは濃紺の空だった。青はどこまでも濃く、もはや黒に近かった
……
目覚めたまま夢を見ているような奇妙な感覚だった

Hi. The text is from a narrative part of novel. Why is だった/かった form used to describe present state/condition?
Isn’t だった/かった past tense?
Thank you.
 
  • thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Yes, I know that if we translate them into English, it would be like “When I opened my eyes, I saw a deep-blue sky. The color was incredibly dark,”. But the Japanese tense is different from English tense. What is being described is obviously present state/situation, not past, isn’t it? Do you mean だ can’t be used here?
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    They're definitely the past tense in Japanese.
    A novel is most typically written in the past tense in Japanese.

    To the contrary, a writer may adopt the present tense to describe the past thing, which is called "a narration tense" or something.
    You may have an illusion to think it in reverse. Past is the past.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. I see.
    But doesn’t the narrative usually employ 相対テンス rather than 絶対テンス? I.e. it depends on the narrator or the character’s point of view. According to my experience (though I haven’t read many novels), at least half of the narrative is in present tense and the rest is in past tense.
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I think you confuse the concept of the tense.

    The simple past tense in Japanese is merely the simple past tense.
    For example, in English or even in Japanese,
    when you say,"I loved my wife", it may contain the connotation that "I'm not love her now" or "But she passed away."
    However in Japanese, and in this context, the past tense doesn't necessarily have such connotation.
    If you stick to the past tense being used for something that was different from now, you may be right.
    But it's different from Japanese grammar.

    It might be help for you if you think that:
    The simple past tense and also the present perfect tense in English are written in the past tense, ~~~た, in Japanese.

    A novel is usually written in the simple past tense, because the writer introduces readers about the event that happened in the past.
    They may write it in the present tense when they want to convey readers as if the event is really going on now, which has the vivid impression.

    However, in your quote, the write adopt the past tense because of "た."
    Therefore, they are the past tense.



    目を開くと、そこは濃紺の空。青はどこまでも濃く、もはや黒に近い。
    ……
    目覚めたまま夢を見ているような奇妙な感覚

    This is a narration style. The event happened in the past, but the writer adopts the present tense because it sounds very vivid.
    The writer writes as if they're experiencing it now. But actually the novel is already printed its outcome or results, which is the future from what was going on at that time. The total content is talking about the past event, basically, except a prophecy or a fortune-telling.


    It's your preference to think that the writer should have written in the present tense in that context.
    If you want it to be the present tense, you may ask the write to change the tense from the past to the present.
    But it's only your personal preference.

    In your quote, they just adopted the past tense, not the present tense. That's all.
    If you read this explanation or #2 or #4 for more than 25 times, you will understand!
     
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    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Hi. Thank you very much, Sola-san.
    Before I see your latest post, I have read an explanation in another forum. According to it, if a sentence is written from the author's perspective, we use past tense/form (at the end of the sentence) to "move the story forward"; if the sentence is written from the perspective of a character in the story, we use present tense/form (at the end of the sentence) to “describe the current scene vividly". I think this explanation corresponds with yours. Does it make sense?
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    If you are convinced by other forum's comment, good for you!:)
    If you are not convinced by my answers, just forget them for your sake.:rolleyes:
    I'm not interested in how you misunderstood the concept of the past tense nor I'm not interested in how you are convinced by that explanation.
    It seems to me that it was the problem in your mind. Or you had a misconception. :eek:
    Anyway, I would insist that it's the past tense!
    And writing them in the past tense is QUITE natural and normal.
    Your way of thinking that it should be written in the present tense seems quite absurd for me. :(
     
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    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    If you are convinced by other forum's comment, good for you!:)
    If you are not convinced by my answers, just forget them for your sake.:rolleyes:
    Sorry, I think you wronged me. Having reading your explanation and that in other forum again, I still don’t find your explanations contradicts each other. I’m sure they are compatible and supplementary to each other. I’m just wrong about the usage of 相対テンス and 絶対テンス, which is only employed in the relative clause, not the main clause. (Although I have not grasp the usage of 相対テンス, as I asked about it in other thread). I accept that usually Japanese novels are based on past tense, not present tense.
    It might be help for you if you think that:
    The simple past tense and also the present perfect tense in English are written in the past tense, ~~~た, in Japanese.
    So is it right to think that the past progressive and also the past perfect in English are written in the ていた form (in the main clause) in Japanese? Although I have seen a lot of ているs in the main clause, actually they are derived from ていた for vividness, right?
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    So is it right to think that the past progressive and also the past perfect in English are written in the ていた form (in the main clause) in Japanese? Although I have seen a lot of ているs in the main clause, actually they are derived from ていた for vividness, right?
    You are wrong to say something about ていた in this thread, which is completely different from the context of this thread. You should create another thread if you want to know.
    I was talking about only this thread's context.
    I was not talking about the Japanese progressive tense, ていた or ている.
    I only explained that ~~た (the simple past tense in Japanese) can be the simple past tense in English and also the present perfect tense in English.
    I even wondered if you can distinguish "progressive tense" from "perfect tense"?
    I even wanted <redacted />

    You must not generalize one concrete context's rule to all, which will probably make you a slow learner.

    For example, "a/an" and "the" difference in English, or は and が distinction in Japanese are very much complicated, right?
    Non-native speakers tend to want to look for a generalized rule.
    However, very unfortunately, there is nothing such a generalized rule in language learning. It's not so simple, almost always!


    In this thread, I want to emphasize only two things:
    Novels are usually written in the past tense.
    The sentences you quoted at #1 adopted definitely the past tense.
    You have to learn them. And nothing more.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you for your response. I see.
    I was talking about only this thread's context.
    Are you suggesting that not all だった/かった in the narrative in the novel are past tense? If so, I agree. I have encountered an example like that. If you are not suggesting that, then could you have a look at this example?
    その時だった。
    「帆高!」
    目の前に、大きな人影があった。こちらに近づいてくる。光の筋にその顔が照らされる。
    「ーー須賀さん?」
    それは須賀さんだった。須賀さんは僕を睨む。
    「探したぜ、帆高」
    The red part isn’t past tense but shows that the recognition on the part of the speaker has already occurred. Does it make sense?
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    その時だった。
    「帆高!」
    目の前に、大きな人影があった。こちらに近づいてくる。光の筋にその顔が照らされる。
    「ーー須賀さん?」
    それは須賀さんだった須賀さんは僕を睨む。
    「探したぜ、帆高」
    The red part isn’t past tense but shows that the recognition on the part of the speaker has already occurred. Does it make sense?
    Noooooooooooooooo!
    I became bored to answer to your question, so it would be the last time:
    There are three red parts, written in the past tense, absolutely.
    And there are thee blue parts, written in the present tense.
    They are fifty-fifty; 3:3, right?
    Somehow, you thought that they were written about something that was on-going. But I do not agree.

    According to the rule that a novel is basically written in the past tense, I'd regard that the red parts are the normal and basic tense, which are the past tense. And that is talking about something in the past.
    And the blue parts are merely exceptions to adopt the present tense for the rhetorical effect of vividness.

    その時だった(The writer regarded that this whole novel's contexts were already happened in the past, and they chose the past tense, which is quite ordinary and normal thing traditionally.)
    「帆高!」
    目の前に、大きな人影があった(The writer regarded that this whole novel's contexts were already happened in the past, and they chose the past tense, which is quite ordinary and normal thing traditionally.)
    こちらに近づいてくる(The writer chose the present tense here, as if it's an ongoing thing. They used this technique hoping that the readers feel it as if it's an ongoing thing now. "For the purpose to make it vivid." )
    光の筋にその顔が照らされる。。(The writer chose the present tense here, as if it's an ongoing thing. They used this technique hoping that the readers feel it as if it's an ongoing thing now. "For the purpose to make it vivid." )
    ーー須賀さん (This is a quoted sentence. Therefore, this sentence's tense would be the present tense, of course.)

    それは須賀さんだった(The writer went back to use the past tense because they regard this whole novel's contexts were already happened in the past, and they chose the past tense, which is quite ordinary and normal thing traditionally.)
    須賀さんは僕を睨む。(The writer chose the present tense, as if it's an ongoing thing. They used this technique hoping that the readers feel it as if it's an ongoing thing now. "For vividness.")


    You're thinking in the opposite way, which is wrong from my viewpoint. That is all.
    If you don't want to agree with me, it's up to you. But maybe your confusion will probably continue forever, unfortunately.
    If you insist that the whole context is talking about the present situation, it is up to you. It is YOUR interpretation which at least I do not agree with.
    In that case, you have to conclude that the past tense can be used for the present, on-going things, in order to make a logical explanation. I have no right to deny your own idea because I have to respect you.

    I hope my last message might be your help.


    cf) The narration mode or the screenplay or the manuscript for theater shows are usually or traditionally written in the present tense. In that case, the whole sentences would be:
    その時である。
    「帆高!」
    目の前に、大きな人影がある(出現する)。こちらに近づいてくる。光の筋にその顔が照らされる。
    「ーー須賀さん?」
    それは須賀さん。須賀さんは僕を睨む。
    「探したぜ、帆高」
    Maybe this is what you were thinking about.:confused:

    When I read these sentences in an ordinary novel, I may feel uneasy because it's unnatural as a novel. I decide that this sentences are a kind of screenplay or a novel-that-imitates-a-screenplay. I may think that there is an intention of the writer, which is appealing something new or something different.
    I don't wonder if many light-novel writers may be fond of adopting a "new" style.

    Likewise, your new way of thinking or interpretation may make sense to somebody else.
    In that case, you have to make a new grammatical rule about your usage of た.
     
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    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you very much. Actually, many ideas in my previous posts are not my thinking—I just copied them from elsewhere and showed them to you in order to double-check it. So it is not that I don’t agree with you. On the contrary, I accept your idea, if your idea is that all だったs at the end of a sentence in narrative in novels are past tense (The only thing I might slightly disagree is that maybe it is better to call them “perfect tense” because they indicate a sense of completion?) If I have left some negative impressions with you, I’m sorry.
    But you seem to say that there is more to ていた than just past progressive/past perfect, which is off-topic here so I will need about it in new threads.
     

    SoLaTiDoberman

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I understand that many ideas are not yours. Good for you.
    I wish this thread might be a little help for you to learn Japanese. Thank you! ;):)
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Yes, it helps a lot.

    Hi, SoLaTiDoberman-san. Regarding the thread and your comments, I feel obliged to say something, which I hope can clarify some misunderstandings.

    1. I gave you three ideas in that thread (please see post#5, 7, 11). You said I was plagiarizing. But I think I already told you in post#7, though not explicitly, that the idea in it was not mine. (Though I didn’t give you its source) I didn’t realize that double-checking others’ explanations is a nasty thing, so if you feel offended I’m sorry. I did it just to make sure if you two are saying the same thing lest that I misunderstand the grammar. I have no intention of cheating you or something.

    2. I haven’t insisted that Japanese novels should be written in the present form. Actually my original understanding is Japanese novels adopt something like a mixed tense system, where each sentence has its own tense (e.g. each sentence has a different だった). But now I see your point that the whole Japanese novel adopts an universal tense, which is past tense. In other words, the whole Japanese novel is consistent in tense and present tense is just exception.

    3. If I misunderstood your comments about ~ていた, then I think it’s safe to imagine that ~ていたis still just past progressive (for action verbs) or past perfect (for state verb) in novels because Japanese novels are, like English, usually written in past tense.

    Thank you for your time.
    Cheers,
    thetazuo
     
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