I know (at least I think I do) that you can add contrast to verbs by adding は e.g. 食べてはいる = "I'm eating it (not drinking it/rubbing it on my skin etc)".

I'm wondering, specifically, how you add emphasis to 'was', for example:

  1. It was quiet (until you started telling me how quiet it is) -- na-adjective;
  2. I was eating it (until you interrupted me) -- verb;
  3. She was beautiful (until you drew a moustache on her face) -- i-adjective.

In each of these examples, in English, the sentiment would be expressed by emphasising 'was', and the part in parentheses would be implied. What grammatical modifications/emphasis/pitch accent changes would be required to express this idea in Japanese?

  • 1
    I know (at least I think I do) that you can add contrast to verbs by adding は. Why don't you apply that same contrast logic?
    – istrasci
    Commented May 22 at 22:29
  • @istrasci Quite simply because it not obvious to me how that would work. Where do I put a は in 静かだった for example? The only thing I can think of would be 静かはだった and I don't think I've seen anything like that before. Maybe wrong of course. Commented May 22 at 22:51
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    da is contraction of de aru. When you want to add particle to it, you should place it after de (e.g. ではある, ではあった, でもある, でもあった). See japanese.stackexchange.com/a/95441, japanese.stackexchange.com/a/77135. However it is not necessarily what you search for, since you want to contrast past tense as opposed to present tense, while は rather contrasts affirmative to negative...
    – Arfrever
    Commented May 22 at 23:27
  • For i-adjectives, you would use Continuative/連用形 (-ku) + particle + aru. E.g. for 白い: 白くはある, 白くはあった, 白くもある, 白くもあった. Past tense suffix -katta, from earlier -kattaru, from earlier -karitaru, is also result of contraction of -ku arite aru, with no particle after -ku.
    – Arfrever
    Commented May 22 at 23:37
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    The structure of "食べてはいる" can be used in past tense as "食べてはいた" or "静かではあった", but the emphasis may not be what you are looking for (see naruto's answer). Like, "食べてはいる" (At least I'm eating {possibly: albeit insufficient/unhealthy or despite not taking good care of myself in other parts}), "山径の方は陰気ではあったが心を静かにした" The mountain path was gloomy but it soothed my mind. 「君が話し始めるまで静かではあったよ」 It was at least quiet {albeit with other annoyance, maybe your precense} until you started talking.
    – Yosh
    Commented May 23 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


You can stress た/だ (or だ in だった) to emphasize that what you're saying is in the past tense:

  • 静かだっ or 静かった
  • 食べて
  • 美しかっ
  • 飲ん

For example:

  • 美しいんじゃなくて、美しかっんです。
    Not that she is beautiful now, but she was beautiful.

However, not all instances of "I was eating it" translate to "食べて".

  • You may not believe it, but this street was quiet!
  • Mom told me to eat it, but I was eating it already!
  • You were beautiful until you took off your makeup!

In these cases, English speakers still stress "was" for emphasizing the existence of the (past) fact itself. Japanese people tend to emphasize another part of the sentence.

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