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From what I can find,

楽しかったんだ

is considered to be in the past tense, which confuses me.

I would have thought that の nominalized the preceding phrase, and the sentences as a whole was then placed in the present positive by the copula だ predicating the main clause.

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1 Answer 1

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楽しかったんだ is indeed 楽しい + た (past) + の (explanatory-no) + だ (copula). The のだ part can be translated into English as "It's that ~", "The thing is ~", "I mean ~", "You know, ~", "I tell you, ~" or whatever, but this part itself is in the present tense because it's about the current mood of the speaker. The past marker (た) is attached to 楽しい, but technically speaking, it's "wrapped" in a subordinate clause.

So, is this sentence in the past tense or present tense? It depends on what aspect of the sentence interests you. If you're interested in pure syntax, the main predicate of this sentence, (ん)だ, is undoubtedly in the present tense. However, if you consider the main focus of the sentence is 楽しかった ("it was fun"), and view のだ as an added nuance to convey the speaker's mood, then it would be perfectly accurate to describe the sentence as one about the past. The fun experience definitely happened in the past, after all.

If you ask English speakers whether the sentence "I tell you, it was fun!" is in the present or the past tense, you would likely get a variety of responses, wouldn't you? Some might say the sentence is in the past tense because "I tell you" is just a set phrase that expresses a mood, like "hey". Your question is the same.


If you move the past marker (た) to the end of the sentence, you'll get 楽しいんだった, which is 楽しい + の (explanatory-no) + だ (copula) + た (modal-ta). This is still grammatical but means something you might not expect: Conjugated word + んだ vs nonconjugated word + conjugated んだ

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  • Thank you very much! That clears it all up for me, which is a great relief. Intellectual dissonance is darn near physically painful to me, and the black and white assertions that this was in the past tense, no two ways about it, just made no sense to me Sep 11, 2023 at 3:37

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