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As I understand it てある is rather different to ている in that it refers to a resultant state rather than an ongoing action.

However I wonder, what then is the practical difference between a resultant state and a past action?

For example,

昼ごはんを作ってある (昼ごはんは作ってある?)

昼ごはんを作った

both mean “I made dinner” right? Is there any major difference or is it some small nuance?

Would てある not apply if you were speaking of something you did last week and thus the dinner has since been eaten whilst it would work if you were speaking of the dinner you're about to eat?

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I've deleted my answer for sake of sanity. Your questions were answered either directly or indirectly by both answers that were provided. –  LordVysh Mar 6 at 6:10
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Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/5505/… –  ssb Mar 6 at 6:12
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A better title for your question might be "The difference between てある、ている、〜た [etc]" –  Tim Mar 6 at 6:29

4 Answers 4

ている and てある both have one possible meaning of resultant state, but the past form of a verb on its own doesn't. In your example with 作った and 作ってある, 作った only means that food was made. The action took place, and the details of what happened after the completion of that action are not explained. Furthermore, the subject of this will be the person or whatever entity that made the food. The food itself is secondary to the situation.

With 作ってある, on the other hand, is more so about the food itself. If we were to say ご飯はもう作ってある, then we mean to say that the food has already been prepared, and it's still in its state of preparedness.

To give a more concrete example:

  • 帰ってきてご飯を作った。 (When I got home I made food.)
  • 帰ってきたらご飯が作ってあった。 (When I got home dinner was already made (and ready to be eaten))

Note the particles as well. When we're talking about only resultant state and not the "preparation" meaning of てある, you cannot use を with it, so ご飯を作ってある will not be the resultant state of having made dinner like you suggest in your example. The pattern ~を~てあるonly means that something was done in preparation.

For example:

  • レストランの予約をしてある。 (The reservation for the party is made (in preparation for said party).

Compare this to パーティーの予約をした。 You made the reservation, but that's "it" in terms of the information being emphasized.

Please read this article if you can for more explanation about the particles.

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Your sentence 「帰ってきたらご飯がもう(だれかに)作られた。」 is incorrect and 「帰ってきたらご飯を作った。」is unnatural. –  非回答者 Mar 6 at 6:47
    
@TokyoNagoya I wasn't totally sure about how natural that sounded but would you mind telling me where exactly it sounds bad? I guess 帰ってきてご飯を作った would be better, yeah? –  ssb Mar 6 at 6:52
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Or perhaps 帰ってきたあと? I know I have an unhealthy reliance on たら for a lot of things –  ssb Mar 6 at 6:56
    
Isn't something done in preparation expressed with しておく? or is してある used in the same way? –  Ryan Mar 6 at 6:58
    
@Ryan I know I'm not an expert or a native, but this is from the article I linked: "「~てある」が準備を表すときには動詞の制限がなく、また対象が「が」格で表されるという特徴も備えていません。" –  ssb Mar 6 at 6:59

1)「昼ごはんを作った/作りました。」= "I/Someone cooked lunch."

↑ Plain past.

2)「昼ごはんを作っていた/作っていました。」= "I/Someone was cooking lunch."

↑ Past progressive.

3)「昼ごはんを作っている/作っています。」 = "I/Someone is cooking lunch."

↑ Present progressive.

4)「昼ごはんを作ってある/作ってあります。」 = "I/Someone cooked lunch (some time ago and it is ready to eat.) "

↑ Resultant state. Lunch has already been cooked but it has not been eaten.

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for 作ってある, I would tend to translate it "lunch has been made" or colloquially "lunch is ready." I don't think we have an exact match for that tense in English. –  virmaior Mar 6 at 7:08

First of all both ている and てある can refer to a resultant state, the difference is that てある can only be used with transitive verbs and thus refers to the object's change of state.

昼ごはんを作ってある refers to the new state of 昼ごはん rather than the action itself.

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Wow. I'd never have thought that. –  LordVysh Mar 6 at 5:37
    
so it is just a matter of where you're placing the emphasis? There is never any difference in the practical meaning? –  Tor Mar 6 at 5:43
    
As i said you're referring to a change in the object's state so the meaning is slightly different. –  Ryan Mar 6 at 5:53

I seem to remember you said you were relatively new learner. So, before giving an answer and addressing the example you give, perhaps I should say that your question touches some of the most difficult but ultimately unavoidable parts of Japanese grammar to grasp if, like me, you are not a linguist and studying Japanese is the first time you have had to understand the difference between say a transitive and intransitive verb.

I have given a set of sentences below which illustrate the difference between てある、ている、〜た and the past forms but it sounds like the most important thing is to understand てある, which is hopefully illustrated but the following two sentences:

ビールを冷やしてある | The beer has been chilled.
ビールが冷えている | The beer is chilled.

The important point to grasp is that although both sentences accurately describe the current state of the same bottle of beer,

the first sentence, which uses the transitive verb + てある, tells us that the beer was at one time "warm" (which is not unusual in my country, the UK, where we are famous for drinking our beer warm) but, someone took action and chilled it.

In the second sentence the intransitive verb is used and we are told the beer is chilled but we are not told if it was ever warm or if somebody took steps to chill it.

Also, as pointed out by someone else, the 〜てある form is not used with intransitive verbs.

Now, if you understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs and everything covered so far in this answer then I would say we've covered 90% of your question and only the hardest 10%, which requires you understand the nuances of the 〜ている form, remains.

This is explained very well in the paper recently cited by Snailplane, "A Study of "V-te iru" in Japanese by Taeko Tomioka" but as this can take sometime and I think you said you were a beginner, it might be tactically sensible to;

(1) learn and practice using the examples of transitive/intransitive pairs & 〜てある given in your text book and
(2) go through the examples below and when you have time return to the paper or take a look at some of the other related questions on this site.

Example sentences to illustrate the difference between てある、ている、〜た etc
[explanatory comments are in sq. parentheses]

ビールを冷やす | I (will) chill the beer. [plain / future]
ビールを冷やした | I chilled the beer. [past, perfect]
ビールを冷やしてある | The beer has been chilled. [by me or another undisclosed person]
ビールが冷えている | The beer is chilled. [subject has changed (= Resultative state)]

And then, (そして);

ビールを暖める | I (will) warm up the beer. [plain / future]
ビールを暖めている | I am warming up the beer. [Progressive / Continuative state]
ビールを暖めた | I warmed up the beer. [past, perfect]
ビールが暖めてある | The beer has been warmed up [by me / someone]

=> As a result (その結果)

ビールが冷えたが 今、 | The was chilled but now,
もう冷えていない。 | it is not chilled anymore.

Your example
Finally, let's apply this to the example you give:

昼ごはんを作ってある | My dinner has been prepared (~made)
昼ごはんを作った | I prepared (~made) my dinner.

In the first sentence we are told somebody prepared your dinner but not who (although you may be able to infer this from the context). In the second sentence we are told that you prepared your dinner (past).

If you have grasped the nuances of the 〜ている then you might infer from the first sentence that your dinner was ready and waiting to be eaten but not from the second sentence which just states somebody prepared it (past tense).

(Note: If you wanted to emphasize to somebody that you had prepared your dinner and it was now ready and waiting to be eaten and for some reason you did not want to use the 〜てある form, then you might say 「僕が昼ごはんを作っているけど・・」but before going there it might be better to study the 〜ている further.)

Additional note:
I have just noticed my first two sentences are also used by Hanaoka McGloin in "A students' guide to Jse Gmmr". She tells us that:

"[The first sentence] could be used when one is having a party and tells a friend that beer has been chilled and is ready to go. A wife, on her husband's return, on the other hand, could utter either [sentence]. In such a case, the difference is a matter of focus. The [first sentence] would imply that the beer was especially done for him. [The second] on the other hand, states the fact matter-of-factly."

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"昼ごはんを作ってある | My dinner has been prepared (~made)" is a pretty incorrect translation. –  Darius Jahandarie Mar 6 at 15:36
    
@DariusJahandarie: Please could you suggest a correct translation and explain why? We are all eager to learn or we probably would not be users of the site. (Thanks) –  Tim Mar 6 at 20:07
    
I am writing an answer, it is just taking me a while, there is a lot to explain. –  Darius Jahandarie Mar 6 at 20:19
    
It took me an unexpectedly long time write mine too, which why I have to say I find your short comment pretty unconstructive: This may come done to a discussion of English not Japanese but to my native ears "[something]has been[done]" satisfactorily communicates that somebody completed an action with a specific object and the resultant state continues. [There, that did not take long to write. ;-)] I learnt this many years ago so I went back to check (cont'd) –  Tim Mar 6 at 23:53
    
(cont'd) Interestingly the 日本語表現文型, does not give "has been" just "is, are" without out any translated examples but Makino's "Dict.Basic Jse.Gmmr", the Mizutanis' "Intro. to Mod.Jse" and Hanaoka McGloin's "A students' guide to Jse Gmmr" all do. The latter seems to have been source of my example and I've added the explanation found there to my answer. –  Tim Mar 7 at 0:07

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