Can someone explain why 持った is used in place of 持っている in the following sentence (from Monday's Japan Times)?


The first humanoid robot with speech capability to be in space made small talk with Koichi Wakata on the International Space Station.

Based on the answer to the: Use of ~ていた vs ~ている to refer to a resultant state it sounds like the meaning does not significantly change. After referring to the transalation 持った felt more appropriate, possibly because the sentence was in the past tense (ie 雑談した).

If this is correct then, I wonder, if the sentence finished with 雑談している or 雑談していた then would 持っている or 持っていた be more appropriate?

(My feeling is that 持っている would be appropriate in both the latter two cases. 雑談していた would be appropriate if the writer wanted to either (1)set the scene in the past (and the robot no-longer existed/had the ability to talk) or (2) just simply the robot no-longer exists/no-longer has the ability to talk, but cannot be sure of this.)

1 Answer 1


I think both...


... would sound okay for the newspaper. These sound more formal/literary than...


... to me. (I would use 持っている/持ってる/のある/がある if I was to say this in normal conversation.) Even if the sentence ended with 雑談している or 雑談していた, you'd use 持つ or 持った:

会話能力を持った/持つ初の人間型ロボットキロボが宇宙飛行士の若田幸一さんと国際宇宙ステーションで雑談しています。(or 持っている, which might sound a bit more colloquial)
会話能力を持った/持つ初の人間型ロボットキロボが宇宙飛行士の若田幸一さんと国際宇宙ステーションで雑談していました。(or 持っている, but not 持っていた)

  • 1
    Thank you. Your answer distinguishes between the newspaper and conversation. Does the meaning / nuance change if we use 持つ・持った in conversation, and likewise if we use 持っていた in written form, or is it just a kind of accepted and understood convention?
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 7:08
  • @Tim You can use 持つ・持った in conversation too, and it might just sound a bit more formal/politer. (I don't see much difference between 持つ and 持った in this context. Maybe 持つ sounds a little bit more formal.) I don't think you'd use 持っていた here, even in the written form.
    – user1016
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 15:51

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