This is only my second question here. My level is somewhere in the N5 region.

My question is this:

私の彼女はチリ人で、 学生ビザを使って日本に来ています。

Both Deepl and the Japanese guy whose podcast this is taken from translate this as "My girlfriend is Chilean and came to Japan on a student visa." Here is what I don't understand: isn't "来ています" the progressive form "is coming (to Japan)" ? Or has that for some reason morphed into "is coming" (i.e. for a while) => IS in Japan => CAME to Japan ?

Thank you!

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    Here's the obligatory link when someone asks a question like this: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/3122/… Jan 6 at 19:33
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    @user3856370 That text apparently used U+3099 character, called "COMBINING KATAKANA-HIRAGANA VOICED SOUND MARK". Unicode also has U+309A "COMBINING KATAKANA-HIRAGANA SEMI-VOICED SOUND MARK". E.g. "HIRAGANA LETTER TE" + "COMBINING KATAKANA-HIRAGANA VOICED SOUND MARK" is displayed in the same way as "HIRAGANA LETTER DE". I have seen U+3099 and U+309A in the past in internet, but I do not know what input software produces them by default. I do not use them, but I do not think that they are technically wrong... They allow for strange things like か゚, さ゚, た゚ :) .
    – Arfrever
    Jan 7 at 3:34
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    @Richard One of the things that makes SE very different from discussion boards is that pith and maximum focus are desirables here. Your level of proficiency isn’t generally particularly important to answer the question – a simple mention of N5 (as it stands in the current edit) is sufficient, the rest just took focus away from the crux of the question. Similarly, the fact that this is your second question isn’t really that important (anyone can look at your profile and see this for themselves if they wish), and things like opening pleasantries and closing thanks are actively discouraged. Jan 7 at 12:25
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    (That said, I agree that ‘cruft’ was not a well-chosen word – I would have called it ‘excess details that distracted from the core question’.) Jan 7 at 12:27
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    @user3856370 Thanks, fair enough. I wasn't quite aware of the no-nonsense approach of this board and have yet to get used to it. (In time, I, too, will manage to skip "hello" and the like, haha...)
    – Richard
    Jan 7 at 20:07

2 Answers 2


I honestly dislike how the “ている” form is often taught as the progressive form. To be clear, this is a minor use compared to its more common use which is comparable to the perfect in English. I disagree with “came” as a translation as well and favor “has come” or simply “is in Japan right now”. The “〜ている” form actually has three uses:

  1. perfect: “ここに来ている” pretty much always means “Has come here.”
  2. progressive: “これを食べている” pretty much always means “Is eating this.”
  3. remaining: “きれいでいる” pretty much always means “To remain pretty.”

I would mostly simply advise beginners to pick whichever of the three makes sense in context since it's usually only one, but there are actually some rules regarding the verb, that is to say:

  1. Verbs whose action has a clear endpoint of completion pretty much always have the perfect sense. So “送っている” means “to have sent”, “結婚している” means “to be married” and “来ている” means “to have come”, but “歩いている” tends to mean “to be walking” since walking itself does not have a clear endpoint.
  2. Other active verb can have either meaning depending on context. “書いている” can mean both “to be writing” and “to have written” depending on context. Usually only one of them makes sense.
  3. Verbs that already describe a state and not an action pretty much always describe remaining in that state. “違っている” is quite similar to “違う” but has a more permanent nuance to it.

Note that I use “verb” fairly broadly here. One can consider adjectives “verbs” for this purpose. Also, the “〜ている” form of i-adjectives is formed as in “美しくいる” without the “〜て” but it's still called that way.

But really, as said, in practice as a beginner, first assume the “〜ている” form has the perfect meaning. Should that not make sense then assume the progressive meaning.

It should also be noted that Japanese, much like English, has many verbs that have “laid aside” their original perfect meaning and now simply describe the resulting state without the origin, similar to in English saying “I am civilized.”. This does not imply that someone or something recently did the civilizing, one could always be that way, similar to “My arm is still attached.”, compare “My arm is still fastened.” which implies that someone or something recently did the fastening. “付いている” is quite similar it means “to be attached”. “入っている” does not mean “has entered” but “is inside” with no implication it actually recently entered anything.


In my Genki I book I found this:

Verbs in Group 3 like いく and くる describe changes from one state to another.

Thus いっている and きている indicate the current states that result from prior movement.

うち に きています = somebody has come over to visit (Not: somebody is coming over)

Hope this helps.

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