Wild Nihongo!


ている Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Auxiliary Verb (Group 2)

Essential Meaning: ~ing (an action continues) / X continues to be in some state brought about by a prior action


  • Verb て-Form + いる
    • E.g. はなしている [X is speaking]
    • E.g. べている [X is eating]
    • E.g. くさっている [X is rotten]


  • ている is generally regarded as the Japanese equivalent to the English progressive tense (e.g. “Playing“, “Writing“, “Pooping“). This is a common misconception.
  • When ている is paired with a durative verb that can continue or can be repeated, it expresses continuing action or a habitual action. Verbs such as んでいる [Living] and おもっている [Thinking] fall into this category.
    • E.g. Continuing Action: ジョンはさけんでいる。[John is drinking sake.]
    • E.g. Habitual Action: わたし毎日まいにち4マイルはしっている。[I run 4 miles every day.]
    • E.g. Continuing State: わたし宮崎みやざきんでいます。[I live in Miyazaki (i.e. I am in a continuing state of living in Miyazaki).]
    • E.g. Continuing State: ジョンは日本語にほんごはやさしいとおもっている。[John thinks that Japanese is easy (i.e. John is in a continuing state of thinking that Japanese is easy).]
  • However, when ている is paired with a momentary verb (i.e. one that cannot continue over time) or a verb that cannot be repeated, ている represents the idea that some action occurred, and now the subject remains in that state. This is a crucial concept that most textbooks gloss over. Motion verbs such as [To go], [To come], and かえる [To return] fall into this category, as well as [To know].
    • E.g. このリンゴはくさっている。[This apple is rotten (i.e. the apple rotted, and it remains in that state).] The verb くさる [To rot] can not be repeated; once the apple is rotten, it’s rotten.
    • E.g. たおれている。[The tree has fallen over (i.e. the tree fell over, and it remains in that state).] The falling of the tree is presumably a momentary action, and after the tree falls it remains in that state.
    • E.g. わたし鈴木すずきさんをっています。[I know Ms. Suzuki (i.e. I got to know Ms. Suzuki, and I remain in a state of knowing her).] っている indicates the continuing state of knowing after getting to know, rather than the continuing action of getting to know.
    • E.g. マークはアメリカにっている。[Mark is in America (i.e. Mark went to America and is still in that state).]
    • E.g. ジョンはもういえかえっています。 [John already went home (i.e. John went home, and he remains in that state).]

Example Sentences:

佐々木ささきさんはさけんでいる。[Sasaki-san is drinking sake.]

和江かずえ新聞しんぶんんでいる。[Kazue is reading a newspaper.]

このリンゴはくさっている。[This apple is rotten.]

たおれている。[This tree has fallen.]

わたし鈴木すずきさんをっています。[I know Ms. Suzuki.]

WILD Examples:

At 0:55, listen for this line: その笑顔えがおっているとき、本当ほんとうしあわ [When I’m looking at that smile, I’m become truly happy]
At 2:56, Mako Mori says this line: No! まだ方法ほうほうのこっている [No! There’s still a way!]
Listen to this opening line beginning at 0:27: どれくらいの値打ねうちがあるだろう、ぼくいまきているこの世界せかい[About how much value is there, in this world where I am living]

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