Japanese Grammar

Present Progressive Tense & Resultant States with Te-form


Last time, you learned what the plain form can express, which are the two usages of present tense: constant attributes like “みがくことは大切たいせつです (Brushing teeth is important),” and customary actions like “毎朝まいあさみがきます (I brush my teeth every morning),” and future tense: “いまからみがきます (I will brush my teeth from now).” Then, if you want to say, “I’m brushing my teeth,” how would you say it? In this lesson, you will learn present progressive tense and resultant states.

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How Present Progressive Tense and Resultant State Work with Te-form

Table of Contents
Present Progressive Tense
Resultant State
Motion Verbs with the Te-form + いる
Customary Actions: the Plain Form VS. the Te-form + いる

First of all, let’s learn what the te-form is. It is one of the most important forms to know when learning Japanese because it can be a base for other various forms, which include present progressive tense and resultant states. The conjugation rule is complicated when compared with others, especially when it comes to u-verbs. You have to conjugate u-verbs differently depending on the last character.

Conjugation Rule of the Te-form

Ru-verbs: Replace る with て

  Plain Te-form
To see, look (at), watch
To wear
To eat べる
To answer こたえる こた

Two Exceptions

  Plain Te-form
To do する
To come

U-verbs: Four Different Rules with One Exception

  Plain Conjugation Te-form
To buy
To wait
To go back

う =>   
つ => って
る =>   
To die
To hang out
To read

ぬ =>   
ぶ => んで
む =>   
To write
To swim

く => いて
ぐ => いで
To talk はな す => して はなして
To go * Exception って

Further Conjugation

Again, the te-form can be a base for other forms. For example, if you attach いる, it indicates present progressive tense as shown below.

 Affirmative Negative
て(いる / います て(いない / いません
して(いる / います して(いない / いません
て(いる / います て(いない / いません
って(いる / います って(いない / いません
んで(いる / います んで(いない / いません

Ongoing Actions (Present Progressive Tense) and Ongoing States (Resultant States)

Present progressive tense expresses what you are doing now, which you can think about as ongoing actions. By contrast, resultant states express a state resulting from a momentary action, e.g. “to get married” is a momentary action and will result in a state: “I’m married.” You can think about these states as ongoing states. Unlike English, we express them with only one form: te-form + いる.

Present Progressive Tense

[わたしは・が] うた うたって(いる / います)
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb: Present Progressive
[I’m] singing songs.

Present progressive tense is equivalent to “be + verb-ing” in English, and expresses continuous actions. This is very simple for English speakers. Here are more examples.

ひるごはんをべて(いる / います)。
[I] am eating lunch.
サッカーをして(いる / います)。
[I] am playing soccer.
わらって(いない / いません)。
[I] am not laughing.
ている(の / んですか)?
Are [you] sleeping?

Resultant State

[わたしは・が] もの て(いる / います)
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb: Resultant State
[I] wear a kimono.

The resultant states are expressed with various forms in English as shown by the translations below. However, you express this with only a single form: “te-form + いる” in Japanese. This may be a little confusing for English speakers. With the above example, る indicates just a momentary action like “to put on” and ている indicates a state which is equivalent to “to wear.”

かばんをって(いる / います)よ。
[I] have a bag.
きて(いる / います)。
[I’m] awake.
おこって(いない / いません)。
[I’m] not angry.
いまほんれて(いる / いますか)?
Is [it] sunny in Japan now?

If you use the plain form of verbs which indicate states, you can express the moments that states will begin

かばんを(つ / ちます)よ。
[I will] hold the bag.
きる / きます。
[I will] get up.
おこる / おこります)よ。
[I will] get angry.
れる / れます)よ。
[It] will clear up.

Note: verbs that indicate constant attributes cannot be “te-form + いる.”

みずっている。 => Wrong!
みずる。Lit. [I] need water.

Motion Verbs with the Te-form + いる

いもうと 学校がっこう って(いる / います)
Topic / Subject Destination Motion Verb
[My] younger sister went to school [and is there now].

If motion verbs with the te-form + いる are used with destinations, it can work differently and indicate that you have already finished moving and are still at the destination. Here are more examples.

台風たいふうほんて(いる / います)。
A typhoon came to Japan [and is there now].
空港くうこういて(いる / います)よ。
[I] arrived at the airport [and am there now].

You need to judge which function motion verbs work as based on the context when you use く and る. They work as normal progressive tense, too.

いまうみって(いる / います)。
[We] are going to the sea now.
バスがこっちにて(いる / います)。
A bus is coming here.

Supplementary Learning: Colloquial Expressions

ひるごはんをべて(る / ます)。
サッカーをして(る / ます)。
わらって(ない / ません)。
る(の / んですか)?

Native speakers often omit い from the te-form when they are casually speaking.

(Advanced Topic) Customary Actions: the Plain Form VS. the Te-form + いる

毎日8まいにちはちかんる / ます)。
毎日8まいにちはちかんて(いる / います)。

Customary actions can actually be expressed by both the plain form and the te-form + いる. The above examples have the same meaning: “[I] sleep for eight hours every day.” The difference of the nuance is still controversial among linguists.

タバコはしばらくって(いない / いません)
As for tobacco, [I] haven’t smoked for a while.
タバコはしばらく(わない / いません)。
As for tobacco, [I] won’t smoke for a while.

It is said that the te-form + いる imply that actions are temporary customs. With the above examples, only the first one indicates a customary action because しばらく indicates “not to smoke” is temporary.

さかなみずなかで(きている / きています)。
Fishes live in the water.
さかなみずなかで(きる / きます)。
Fishes live in the water.

However, the te-form + いる can often work even if actions are not temporary. Therefore, we can say that the te-form + いる is more versatile. If you have difficulty choosing the proper one, you may just use the te-form + いる.


  1. The te-form requires you to differently conjugate u-verbs depending on the last character.
  2. Present progressive tense indicates ongoing actions like “I’m learning Japanese.”
  3. Resultant states indicate ongoing states like “I wear Japanese clothes.”
  4. Motion verbs with the te-form + いる can indicates you have moved and stay there now.

For Japanese native speakers, it is very useful to be able to express present progressive tense and resultant states with a single form, because if something is ongoing, you can just use verbs with the te-form + いる. If you are confused, please try to memorize what each form can express. You have learned the plain form and the te-form + いる now. Next, you will dig into constant attributes in order to express existence and possession.

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