I'm reading a graded reader about the 地蔵(じぞう)folktale. The おじいさん gets to the statues and finds them with snow on their heads and bodies. He removes the snow from them and places hats on five out of six of them. Then he says: あれ、困りましたねえ. After that, he realizes there's one left without a hat, he takes his off and places it on it's head. My question is, when he says 困りました, does he mean he was troubled before he put the hats on the five statues, and after that he wasn't? Or that he's troubled because there's one without a hat left? I think it's the former, and if it were the latter, it would be 困っています. Is that assumption correct?

  • In fact た is not just a tense marker here. hermes-ir.lib.hit-u.ac.jp/rs/bitstream/10086/19300/1/… – Yang Muye Jun 7 '15 at 16:12
  • That pdf doesn't really say much to me. My Japanese level is very basic. – Daniel Jun 7 '15 at 16:17
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    困りました is better learned as an idiom that is said when you feel you're in trouble. The た is used to express the speaker's emotion. 困っています would be more objective and used to describe the subject's state. You may also see 困ります; this is used to express the speaker's emotion, too, but used a bit differently. – Yang Muye Jun 7 '15 at 16:24

It sounds like he said it after he realized there's one without a hat. In daily speech people say 困った to themselves or about someone else at the moment they realize something's wrong. Saying 困っています sounds like you're asking for some kind of long term help.

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  • わかりました。どうもありがとうございます。 – Daniel Jun 7 '15 at 17:33

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