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if お腹が空いた means "I'm hungry",

then what would be the past tense of お腹が空いた since (i think) it's already in the past tense?

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The past tense would be:

お腹がすいていた

This would be along the lines of "my stomach was in the state of being empty" or simply "I was hungry."

Additionally, the "た” in お腹がすいた is not showing "past tense" but is actually showing the completion of an action. In this case, the stomach has emptied.

食べた後で部屋を掃除します。This is the "た” which shows completion of an action.

昨日ケーキを5個食べた! This is the past tense version of "た".

I believe this た is called 完了形 in grammar terms.

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Yes we have various mentions of "tense" in questions, answers, and comments, and few that I've noticed of "aspect". I wonder if I should ask a question about those even though I think I know the answer. –  hippietrail Jun 16 '11 at 0:31
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As phirru already answered, “I was hungry” is おなかがすいていた. However, this is not the past form of おなかがすいた. Although phirru explained it in his/her answer, let me be more explicit in this regard.

おなかがすいた is the past form of おなかがすく, which means to become hungry. In other words, おなかがすく refers to the change of the state from “not hungry” to “hungry.” For example,

食事をしないとおなかがすく。 (しょくじをしないとおなかがすく。) We become hungry if we do not eat.

This is why “I am hungry” is おなかがすい; a literal translation would be “I have become hungry.”

おなかがすいている also means to be hungry, and おなかがすいていた is the past form of this. (Unfortunately, I cannot explain the difference in usage between おなかがすいた and おなかがすいている.)

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sweet explanation =D btw are both お腹が空いた and お腹が空いている commonly used? or will お腹が空いた be more common? –  Pacerier Jun 16 '11 at 15:18
    
@Pacerier: My impression is that おなかがすいている sounds like a description from a third-person viewpoint. For example, when kids say “I’m hungry” to their parents, it will definitely be おなかすいた. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 16 '11 at 16:16
    
ok thx =) –  Pacerier Jun 16 '11 at 16:38
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@TsuyoshiIto, good point (in your comment)... that reminds me of the question japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/6538/… There is definitely some complicated tense/aspect/person interplay going on... –  dainichi Sep 22 '12 at 11:23
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