This sentence is from Japanese the Manga Way panel 371, translation as given in the textbook.

I'll also go ahead and finish off that physical labour that the priest asked me to do.

My question is regarding the speaker's (Kousuke) choice of たのまれていた. It seems clear that ~ている is being used in the "state resulting from an action" rather than the continual sense, i.e. it refers to the priest's request putting Kousuke in a state where he felt obliged to fulfil it. But if the request is still standing, why is he referring to it in the past tense? たのまれていた gives me the impression that "I was asked, but it's not an issue now". To me たのまれている or simply たのまれた make more sense.

One possible explanation is that Kousuke had been letting this request stand for a while, to the extent that he felt sufficiently disconnected from "the state of being requested" to use the past tense.

Context: Summer is getting too hot for strenuous exercise, so Kousuke decides he'll suspend his jogging until cooler days arrive in the fall. He also figures he should take care of the wood he'd promised to chop for the priest at the nearby temple before it gets any hotter. (verbatim from the textbook)

Kousuke delivers this sentence as an internal monologue.

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    This is not the main point, but is the end of the sentence really しまう? It seems that しまおう matches the translation better (although it depends on the context). – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 2 '13 at 16:19
  • Exactly what I was going to mention as the ending is just unnatural to the native ears. Regarding the real question at hand, it would be impossible to answer without further context. – l'électeur Nov 2 '13 at 23:48
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    It is indeed しまう, though I can see why the volitional form would fit better. I'll add as much context as the textbook gave. – Viridian Nov 3 '13 at 14:26
  • Makes sense if it was in a monologue. The answer is that the form is the Japanese equivalent of the pluperfect in European languages. You might find the combo of the pluperfect and the form しまう to be strange but in story-telling, using the present tense to describe an action taken in the past is a common practice. – l'électeur Nov 3 '13 at 22:44
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    I'm afraid I don't understand you - by the pluperfect (past perfect) I assume you're referring to たのまれていた? But 片づけてしまう is describing what Kousuke intends to do, not a past action. Which question are you answering here? – Viridian Nov 4 '13 at 15:31


... all sound alright to me and mean pretty much the same thing.


sounds to me like "~~~ physical labour that the priest asked me to do." You can say


...adding 先週(last week), but not 先週から(since last week).


sounds to me like "~~~ physical labour that the priest has asked me to do." You can say


...adding 先週から, but not 先週.


sounds to me like (しばらく前に)たのまれていた(けれどまだやっていなかった/そろそろやらないといけない), like "~~~ physical labour that the priest asked me to do (a while ago but I haven't done yet/I should be doing now)".

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    @rintaun ①和尚に仕事を頼まれた。②和尚に仕事を頼まれている。③和尚に仕事を頼まれていた。 --- in ① the work might be finished or unfinished (You can say 和尚に仕事を頼まれた。今からやる。 or 和尚に仕事を頼まれた。一時間で終わらせたが。), in ② the work feels unfinished, and ③ sounds to me like "Oh I remember I was asked to~~" "I almost forget I was asked to~~", or "(I was busy then because) Osho had asked me to do the work". (答えになってるかどうか、わかんないけど・・・) – user1016 Nov 7 '13 at 8:38
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    @Viridian 「前に頼まれてたけど、まだやってなかった仕事」・「前に頼まれてたけど、まだやってない仕事」・・・どちらでも意味は同じです。ただ、「やっていなかった仕事」と言った方が、原文の「今のうちに片づけてしまう」つまり「今からやる」「今、やり始めている」というニュアンスにぴったりくると思います。(「まだやっていない仕事を、今やっている。」よりも、「まだやっていなかった仕事を、今やっている。」のほうがいい、というのに似た感じです。) – user1016 Jun 27 '14 at 9:21
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    @Viridian I think it's like... 「やっていなかった*(past)仕事」 would go better with 「今のうちに片づけてしまう(present)」 which implies 「今からやる」/「今やり始めている」, for a similar reason to why 「まだやっていなかった*(past)仕事を、今やっている(present)」 is preferred over 「まだやっていない(present)仕事を、今やっている(present)」. – user1016 Jun 28 '14 at 14:07
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    @Choko I see, I think my mistake was reading the のに in というのに似た as a compound particle (i.e. even though), when it's just というの + に. Why do you use 似た instead of 似る? I think my confusion comes from the Japanese た-form not being quite the same as the English past tense. – Viridian Jun 28 '14 at 15:30
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    @Viridian おぉ・・・言われてみれば・・・「XXさんに似ている人」「赤い服を着ている人」「メガネをかけている人」「青い目をしている人」という意味で、現在のことでも「XXさんに似た人」「赤い服を着た人」「眼鏡をかけた人」「青い目をした人」ってよく言いますね・・・。なぜでしょう。。。。 – user1016 Jun 28 '14 at 16:08

From this expression alone, we cannot assume that his task is not an issue now.

However, as you suspect,


has the same meaning. However, it cannot be said that 'たのまれている' is more widely used than 'たのまれていた'.

Note that sometimes 'たのまれている' cannot be used in a similar context: For example, if the date or the time of the request is specified, you can say


But you cannot say


I'll keep my answer brief and as simple as it can be. 頼まれていた is the verb modifying the noun - 肉体労働 - here. Essentially, just like in English, both sentences mean, pretty much, the same thing, but the nuance is different. 頼まれていた shows that the monk tried on multiple occasions to get us to do what he meant us to do, and 頼まれている means more or less that the monk is nagging us with completing it, constantly asking us to finish it.

  • Elaborate, please. – razorramon Nov 7 '13 at 2:15
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    I believe that ~ている in this case expresses a state, not an ongoing action. – rintaun Nov 7 '13 at 2:23
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    Also, while I agree that it is generally polite and often helpful for downvoters to leave a comment, it is by no means a requirement, and comments do not notify the downvoter, nor does sarcasm make them want to be helpful. – rintaun Nov 7 '13 at 2:27

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