So I know that using dictionary form verb ようになりました means I started to do this thing that I didn't do before. But what would happen if I put it in present tense with ようになります would that be wrong? Would that mean something else? On this website that describes how the structure works it describes it as ようになる which is plain present tense but then all of the example sentences use ようになりました. Why is it in past tense? Isn't it describing the current state of things?

2 Answers 2


The short answer is: "Because 「~~ようになる」 refers to a future event."

That is exctly how the "present" tense works in many cases in Japanese. 「[大学]{だいがく}に[行]{い}きます。」 means "I will be attending college." In other words, that is something a high school kid would say. If you were already a college student, you would most invariably say 「大学に行っています。」.

「がんばれば、[日本語]{にほんご}が[話]{はな}せるようになる(or なります)。」

This sentence is talking about the future. ⇒ "You will be able to speak Japanese if you study hard."

If you became able to speak it at some point in the past (and you can still speak it presently), you would say:

「(2[年]{ねん}くらい[前]{まえ}に)日本語が話せるようになった(or なりました)。」

The state of "being able to speak Japanese" continues on up to the present moment, but the present moment is not when it occured. It was "two years ago", "ten years ago", etc.

This is why we use the "past" tense in Japanese.

  • 1
    does that last sentence mean "about two years ago I became able to speak Japanese"? May 29, 2015 at 13:58
  • That's how I read it.
    – dotnetN00b
    May 29, 2015 at 14:36

Isn't [〜ようになる] describing the current state of things?

In fact, it isn't.

なる is acting as a "state-change" verb here (瞬間動詞 "instantaneous verb" in the Japanese literature, often referred to as "punctual verb" in English literature). When you use it in past tense, that means the state has changed (and it is implied that you are currently in it, though that implication can be canceled).

Lit. "I became able to do it."

If you want to directly say you're in the state, you can say なっている. However, it puts a weird emphasis on the state of "having become able to do it" -- why not just say "I am able to do it" (できる)? In most cases the reason you're using 〜ようになる in the first place is to highlight the change, not the current state. So I think it's probably more common to use 〜た as opposed to 〜ている in the case of 〜ようになる. (Side note: なる does seem to be able to double as a 継続動詞 "durative verb" here, meaning なっている can also refer to you being in the process of changing state.)

If you use the plain form, the most likely semantics is future time. A habitual reading is also possible but that seems pretty marginal with 〜ようになる without significant context.

  • The 瞬間動詞/継続動詞 claims are a bit suspect I think, but I don't think this answer is egregiously wrong at least. May 29, 2015 at 8:30

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