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What suffix would be added to the end of a verb to make as it is being done (I'm eating), or that it has been done (I have eaten, I've ate). For example 私は食べる, or I eat, 食べる would be converted into what to make it, I have eaten and I'm eating?

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What you are asking does not require you just to append a suffix, you need to conjugate the verb. (Compare "What suffix do I add to make 'to be' past tense?".) In your case, 食べる has a verb stem 食べ, which doesn't change. You were lucky. The other class of verbs properly conjugates, in the sense that even the verb stem changes. There is no way to just memorize endings. You have to understand that the whole verb should change in some specified way. – Earthliŋ Feb 1 '13 at 2:52
Oh I knew that the る would be edited out in some way or another, like when adding ます. So your saying that sometimes when the tense changes so does the stem verb, like the Kanji/Kanji+following kana changes? Could you give me an example because that would be very helpful. Does this also mean that different verbs might have a different kana sufix for the same tense? – yasmin-chanel Feb 1 '13 at 4:35
The かく example in my answer is an example of the verb stem changing for the 〜て form and the past tense. The stem is "kak" but it changes to "kai" in those cases (see step 3 in the progressive derivation and step 2 in the past tense derivation) – Darius Jahandarie Feb 1 '13 at 5:15
Oh okay, I think I understand. I had thought you meant change as in the verb in it's entirety changes, Kanji included. So you just mean that it doesn't always mean replacing る with a suffix for that specific tense (at least not always) – yasmin-chanel Feb 1 '13 at 5:25
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In general, trying to translate specific sentences from English into Japanese isn't the best way to learn Japanese grammar (although it can be part of a greater experience). Japanese grammar doesn't work exactly the same as English grammar and has different "building blocks", so things don't always translate directly over. Nevertheless, here are how you would do the progressive and perfect in Japanese.


The progressive aspect in English has a pretty direct equivalent in Japanese. Namely, it is the 〜て form of the verb followed by the auxiliary verb いる (note, the い is commonly dropped). In the case of たべる it would be たべている.

Here is a full derivation for たべる (tabe-ru):

taberu in progressive aspect
= {progressive == 〜て form + いる}
(taberu's 〜て form)iru
= {て form == verb stem + て}

Here is a derivation of something with an uglier 〜て form for fun, かく (kak-u):

kaku in progressive aspect
= {progressive == 〜て form + いる}
(kaku's 〜て form)iru
= {て form == verb stem + て}
= {k+consonant == i+consonant (イ音便)}


The perfect aspect in English is one of those things that does not have a direct equivalent in Japanese grammar. So, to figure out how to translate the perfect, we need to break down what the perfect is used for in English by meaning:

  • To denote something that happened before now. In this case, "I have eaten" is semantically equivalent to "I ate" in English. In Japanese, we use the past tense for this: たべた. The past tense in Japanese is to add 〜た to the stem, which generally requires phonological corrections for -u verbs, just like with the 〜て form.

    taberu in past tense
    = {past == verb stem + た)

    kaku in past tense
    = {past == verb stem + た)
    = {k+consonant == i+consonant (イ音便)}

  • To denote experience with something. For example, "I have skydived." In this case, just as you can't say "I skydived." to mean this in English, the past tense would not mean this in Japanese. Instead, we use the construction (past tense of verb)+ことがある. So in this case,

    show experience of sukaidaibingu wo suru
    = {experience == past tense + ことがある}
    (past tense of sukaidaibingu wo suru) + koto ga aru
    = {past tense of する == した}
    sukaidaibingu wo shita koto ga aru

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I think "past == verb stem + た" and "k or g followed by a consonant must be replaced by an i" might be misleading without more information. It makes it sound like 嗅ぐ would become kag-u → kag-ta → kai-ta rather than kag-u → kag-i → kag-i=ta → ka-i=da. See this PDF titled 動詞テ形音便 for more information. – snailboat Jan 31 '13 at 6:24
The progressive is an aspect (reflects the state of the action around the event) rather than a tense (situates the event relative to now). – jogloran Jan 31 '13 at 6:48
@snailplane Yeah. I was trying to give the full rule and was also trying to avoid mentioning voicing, which resulted in that butchered rule. I've just reduced the scope of the rule now. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 31 '13 at 13:59
@jogloran I agree, fixed. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 31 '13 at 14:00
Thanks a lot! Really helped out. A lot of the sources I was searching on tense were inconclusive , just, puzzling and unclear. – yasmin-chanel Feb 1 '13 at 4:38

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