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For instance, "He is eating" is "Kare wa tabete iru". However, "He is dying" is not "Kare wa shinde iru". Another example is "He is going to Japan" is not "Kare wa nihon ni itte iru". So if I can't use the "te iru" form to express an action currently in progress for verbs like shinu, iku, kuru, then what would be correct way to make those sentences?

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Related (not duplicate): When is Vている the gerund and when is it the continuation of state? (The word “gerund” in the title is actually irrelevant to the question.) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 30 '11 at 4:40
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@sawa: Can you stop changing quotations in other people’s posts to texts with monospace font (primarily used for computer program)? That hurts my eyes. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 30 '11 at 4:51
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I think a way of expressing "he is dying" might be 彼は死にかけている –  user797 Oct 30 '11 at 11:37
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I think explaining かける on the end of verbs is a fairly broad topic that might require another question, but 死に掛ける is an Ichidan verb which means to be dying/close to death. It seems to mainly be used as 死にかけている (see also eow.alc.co.jp/…) –  user797 Oct 31 '11 at 13:40
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I feel that this question is an obvious and important one (see high question upvotes) which most beginners have after being taught that "ている" sometimes can't mean "is ing", and it never seems to receive comprehensive answers. Merely covering the two verbs in the question isn't satisfying. If structures such as ているところ, つつある, かけている, etc. don't form a complete general solution, then a good answer should show the natural Japanese wording for a large number of situations where English would use the progressive tense of a verb that's stative in Japanese. It needs to paint a general picture. –  Hyperworm Oct 31 '11 at 21:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

As @Hyperworm suggested, it might be good to have a more comprehensive set of examples, so I've sifted through the many sentences in the Tatoeba database. Using a python script I reduced the number of sentence pairs down to around 800 sentences, I then went through and documented the differences in around 150 of them which I thought might be relevant.

These are mainly words/expressions which haven't got ている (or some variant of ている) in the Japanese sentence, but have is ...ing/are ...ing etc inside the English sentence. I've also added words/expressions which have some variants of ているところ or かけている in them.

This answer is community wiki, so if there are any errors or you want to add something etc then feel free to edit it.


A-B:

  • approaching (a typhoon is ...): 接近中【せっきんちゅう】
  • asking for (trouble): 招【まね】くことになる
  • becoming: なりつつある
  • becoming (colour is ... to one's face): と似【に】合【あ】う
  • becoming better: 良【よ】くなりつつある
  • becoming smaller: 小【ちい】さくなりつつある
  • beginning to: ~になりかけている
  • breathing hard: 息【いき】苦【ぐる】しそう
  • beginning (homework): とりかかろうとしているところ
  • brimming (with tears): (泪【なみだ】で)あふれた
  • bucking (under pressure): つぶされそう
  • building (a bridge): 建設中【けんせつちゅう】
  • burning: 炊【た】いている途中【とちゅう】

C:

  • changing/turning into: 変【か】わりつつある
  • changing (health ... for the better): 向【む】かいつつある
  • changing (society is ...): 変化【へんか】しつつある
  • climbing (up a tree): 登【のぼ】っていく
  • coming: くる途中【とちゅう】/来【く】る途中【とちゅう】
  • cooling (affection is ...): さめかけていた
  • coming through (teeth are ...): (歯【は】が)はえてきた
  • crossing (the street): 横切【よこぎ】っているところ
  • cruising/sailing: 航行中【せんこうちゅう】
  • crumbling away (traditions are ...): 消滅【しょうめつ】しつつある

D:

  • declining (business is ...): 下【さが】り坂【ざか】 (metaphorical in the sense of "going downhill" or "on a downward slope")
  • decreasing (cases): 減少【しょうめつ】しつつある
  • decreasing/is being decreased/are decreasing: 減【へ】りつつある
  • deliberating: 熟考中【じゅっこうちゅう】
  • disappearing (life is ...): 絶滅【ぜつめつ】しつつある
  • disappearing (lines between something are ...): 消失【しょうしつ】しつつある
  • doing study: 勉強中【べんきょうちゅう】
  • drawing on (winter is ...): 近【ちか】づきつつある
  • dripping (sweat is ...): 落【お】ちてくる
  • driving (me crazy): 気【き】が変【へん】になりそう
  • driving (while ... a car): 運転中【うんてんちゅう】
  • dying (humans/animals etc are ...): 死【し】にかけている/死【し】に掛【か】けている
  • dying (of grief): 死【し】にそう
  • dying (plants are ...): 枯【か】れかけている
  • dying off (population is ...): 減少【めっしょう】しつつある

E-F:

  • entering (a new phase): 突入【とつにゅう】しつつある
  • expecting (a baby/child): 妊娠中【にんしんちゅう】/生【う】まれる予定【よてい】
  • fading (hope): 消【き】えつつある
  • failing (eyesight is ...): 衰【おとろ】えつつある
  • failing (my memory is ...): 衰【おとろ】えた
  • falling (darkness is ...): 下【さが】りつつある

G:

  • gaining (weight): ふえつつある
  • gaining ground: 優勢【ゆうせい】になりつつある
  • gaining on (his car is ... us): 追【お】いつきつつある
  • getting shorter: 短【みじか】くなりつつある
  • giving a bath (to a baby): 入浴【にゅうよく】させているところ
  • going after: 追【お】いかけている
  • going down (quality): 下【さ】がりつつある
  • going down (sun): しずんでいく
  • going home: 帰宅【きたく】する途中【とちゅう】/帰【かえ】る途中【とちゅう】
  • going on trial: 裁判【さいばん】にかけられる
  • going out of (town): 出【で】かけている
  • going through/progressing through: 進行【しんこう】しつつある
  • going to: 行【い】く途中【とちゅう】/行【い】くところ
  • going towards: 向【む】かう途中【とちゅう】
  • going up (prices are ...): 上【あ】がりつつある
  • growing: 増加【ぞうか】しつつある
  • growing (stronger from illness): よくなりつつある

H-M:

  • hardening: 固【かた】まっている途中【とちゅう】
  • having a bath: 入浴中【にゅうよくちゅう】
  • having a recess: 休憩【きゅうけい】時間中【じかんちゅう】/休憩時間【きゅうけいじかん】
  • having (lunch/breakfast): とっているところ/取【と】っているところ
  • having (lunch/dinner): 食【た】べているところ
  • having lunch/having dinner/eating: 食事中【しょくじちゅう】
  • increasing: 増加【ぞうか】しつつある/増【ふや】しつつある/増【ふ】えつつある
  • inquiring into/investigating/looking into: 調査中【けんさちゅう】
  • killing (my back is ... me): 死【し】にそうだ
  • killing (my job is ... me): 死【し】ぬほど
  • leaning towards: 傾【かたむ】きつつある
  • looking (into records): 調【しら】べているところ
  • losing ground: まずくなりつつある
  • making progress: 進歩【しんぽ】しつつある
  • making (them) study hard: 猛勉強【もうべんきょう】させられているところ
  • moving to: 移動【いどう】しつつある

O-R:

  • opening (doors are .../flowers are ... etc): 開【あ】きかけている
  • picking up/recovering: 回復【かいふく】しつつある
  • planning to...: 計画中【けいかくちゅう】
  • preparing (supper): 用意【ようい】をしているところ
  • receding from: 後退【こうたい】しつつある
  • rehearsing (a play): (劇【げき】の)稽古【けいこ】をしているところ
  • rising (sun is ...): 昇【のぼ】りつつある
  • rising (tide is ...): 満【み】ちてくる
  • running (a vehicle): 運転中【うんてんちゅう】
  • running dry: 枯【か】れかけている
  • running out: 無【な】くなりつつある/底【そこ】をつきかけている
  • running short: 不足【ふそく】しつつある

S-W:

  • seeing (a play): 観【み】ているところ
  • seeking to: 希望【きぼう】する
  • serving (a sentence): 服役中【ふくえき】
  • showing (a movie): 上映中【じょうえいちゅう】
  • sinking: 沈【しず】みつつある/沈【しず】みかけている/沈【しず】んでいく
  • sleeping (my legs are ...): しびれた
  • starting: 始【はじ】まりつつある
  • staying: 滞在中【たいざいちゅう】
  • taking off (the aircraft is ...): 離陸【りかく】しつつある
  • taking shape: 具体化【ぐたいか】しつつある
  • teething: 歯【は】が生【は】えかけているところ
  • thinning: 希薄【きうす】になりつつある
  • walking: 歩【ある】いているところ
  • washing (a car): 洗【あら】っているところ
  • writing (a letter/term paper): 書【か】いているところ

Words/expressions I was uncertain about but may need to be elaborated on:

  • go out: 出【で】る/出【で】かける
  • arriving: 到着【とうちゃく】する/着【つ】く/着【つ】く予定【よてい】/入港【にゅうこう】する予定【よてい】
  • talking: 話【はな】す/話【はな】しかけている/お話【はな】しする/話【はな】している途中【とちゅう】
  • developing? (was listed as exploring): 開発【かいはつ】しつつある
  • つく/つきかけている (etc)
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+1! (Though it's community wiki...) My main concern at the minute is the frequent appearance of つつある, which I've heard described as literary/formal. Are those acceptable in casual conversation? If not, how else could they be worded? (I might research that second question myself...) –  Hyperworm Nov 3 '11 at 15:05
    
@Hyperworm I'm not sure, but the script I wrote filtered out ている so ているところ etc might need to be added to make it more comprehensive. –  user797 Nov 3 '11 at 15:19
    
Am I going to need to make a new thread for the differences between tsutsuaru, te iru, kakete iru, te iru tokoro, chou, and tochou? My mind is spinning.... NOTE: This is all very very informative. Thank you for taking the time to answer with and note all of this info. –  dotnetN00b Nov 3 '11 at 20:17
    
@Hyperworm I've added some ているところ expressions (there was a total of 16 of them.) The currently included words/expressions are: 1. if ている etc isn't in the Japanese sentence but ing is in the English; 2. if ing is in the English and かけている is in the Japanese; 3. if ているところ is in the Japanese and ing is in the English. If there's any more which I've missed just say so and I'll add them. It's also very possible that the example sentences were fairly formal, so this is by no means complete. –  user797 Nov 3 '11 at 23:57
    
@dotnetN00b I'm not sure whether you need a new thread or not but that's certainly a question I'd like to know the answer to. My head kind of spins too looking at this list, it has turned out a lot longer than I expected :P –  user797 Nov 4 '11 at 3:05

There's not a solid grammar-based way to express this with stateful verbs such as the ones in your example, at least as far as I'm aware. You'll probably need to use an adverb. Two such examples are the general [中]{ちゅう} and [途]{と}[中]{ちゅう} (which probably has a more specialized usage).

Either example should at least get your point across with your "He is going to Japan" example ([彼]{かれ}は[日]{に}[本]{ほん}に[行]{い}く[途]{と}[中]{ちゅう}です), though these particular adverbs may not be the absolute best way to do so. Also, maybe I'm mistaken, but [死]{し}ぬ[途]{と}[中]{ちゅう} sounds a bit awkward as well, at least to me, so words like these should be used with caution.

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As I've answered in other posts (like this one), 〜つつある is a construct meaning "happening right now" that disambiguates confusion that 〜ている may have. However, for your example ("is dying"), 死にかける/死にかかる is more appropriate as @glacier mentioned in the comments.

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