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昔は違っていた。

昔は違った。

It was different a long time ago.

Do these two Japanese sentences mean the same thing?

Here is the sentence in the original context. The translations are not mine, but are supplied by the Japanese writer. If I replaced 昔は違っていた。with 昔は違った。, how would the meaning change?

February is the coldest in Japan. 日本は2月が一番寒い。

It was different a long time ago. 昔は違っていた。

There were ages where it was the coldest in December or January. 12月や1月が一番寒い時期もあった。

But now, you can say February is the coldest month. しかし、今はやっぱり2月が最も寒い。

The seasons are getting shifted little by little according to global warming. 地球の温暖化にともない、季節もだんだんずれ始めている。

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The latter happened, the former was done. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Feb 15 '12 at 4:50
    
The person was talking about the weather. –  yadokari Feb 15 '12 at 15:58
    
I do not recognize any difference between 違った and 違っていた. 違っていた might be slightly less formal, but I am not even sure about this. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 16 '12 at 1:19
    
I'd personally prefer 違った in this example. 違っている sounds slightly marked to my ears (probably because I consider 違う a stative verb) but I don't have any evidence to back it up. Maybe 違っている came from influence from 間違っている or 変わっている? –  dainichi Feb 16 '12 at 2:52
    
thank you for your comment. what do u mean by marked? –  yadokari Feb 16 '12 at 4:02
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2 Answers

昔は違っていた。=> It was different a long time ago. (for a period)

昔は違った。=> It was, once, different a long time ago. (for a moment)

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Thanks, but I do not understand. To make it clear, can we translate it literally in the most obvious fashion? 昔は違っていた。= Long ago, it was differing (?) 昔は違った= Long ago, it differed (?) {sorry if this is sloppy logic, i am hungover} –  yadokari Feb 15 '12 at 16:10
    
I think that it is a good way to literally translate it yes. –  oldergod Feb 16 '12 at 0:51
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I think it would help to clarify what you mean by "a moment". "A moment" sounds like the differing only lasted a moment, while chigatta really conveys no information about the duration of the differing. There was a point in time where it differed, it could have lasted a moment, it could have lasted forever. –  dainichi Feb 17 '12 at 2:46
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According to wikipedia, 違う is a stative verb and generally cannot take the continuous/progressive aspect ("一般には進行形をとることはできない").

Judging by this, 違っている in the example should be 違った. This also sounds better in my subjective opinion.

However, the article does mention that the 進行形 can be used for emphasis or to express that the situation is temporary. This is quite common, as in expressions 見えている, 思っている etc.

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If the author of that Wikipedia article does not know that 似ている is more common than 似る, he or she does not know Japanese. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 17 '12 at 2:47
    
@TsuyoshiIto Yeah, I noticed that too. Do you know if 似る used to be stative? –  dainichi Feb 17 '12 at 2:58
    
thank you. so i guess the writer was somewhat mistaken? i am still interested if there is an implied change in meaning, but may i ask if 違 can ever exist as an i-adjective? I understand that 違い is a noun. The writer of the passage i quoted (perhaps mistakenly) tried to tell me that 違う was an adjective but I thought that couldn't be true. –  yadokari Feb 17 '12 at 5:05
    
@yadokari. You sometimes hear ちがくない or ちがくて, but it's considered wrong. I've never heard ちがい in this form as an adjective, probably because it's blocked by the noun. –  dainichi Feb 17 '12 at 5:35
    
@TsuyoshiIto On further thought, considering 下手な考え休むに似たり, it seems that 似る has been non-stative for some time in the past as well. So putting 似る in the list is just plain wrong. –  dainichi Feb 17 '12 at 5:40
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