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思い切って「妊娠してるの」と告げると彼は「俺の子だと言うのか?」と言った。

When I braced myself and said, "I'm pregnant" he said "Are you saying it's mine?"

The translation puzzles me. "Saying" would normally be used for 言っている, but it is used for 言う instead. A case could be made that the translation is being liberal, but other example sentences make me suspicious:

どうして謝るのですか

Why are you apologizing?

Perhaps, there are more bad translations than I thought, but even then, there are cases where I cannot think that the present tense of a verb is anything but progressive. For example, there is this trailer (the example sentence is at 4:29)

もう。何を言わせるのよ

So, when 言う is translated as "saying," particularly in dramatic situations such as 「私はダメだと言うの?」 is it a liberal translation and they really mean habitual action or is it literally "saying?"

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    The question is very interesting, but the way it's phrased it's doomed to get answers like "Do you expect translations to be one-to-one?". It might make more sense to phrase it like "why is 言う used for what seems to be the progressive?" or some such.
    – dainichi
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 9:41

1 Answer 1

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This is just a result of you trying to map English onto Japanese. It's fine to say these in Japanese, but because of the subtle differences in the ways English and Japanese can handle verb tenses, the translation to English changes it into a progressive "ing" despite it being hammered into our brains in Japanese 101 that "ing" is for "ている."

Rather, what would you suggest as an alternative translation? For どうして謝る would you say "Why do you apologize?" I'd wager that you would agree that "why are you apologizing?" is more natural/better than "why do you apologize?"

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  • Well, every time I see どうして謝る, the translation is always "apologizing." However, the main reason I worry about this is because of もう。何を言わせるのよ which I can't think of anything else but as "What are you making me say?" If 言わせる is progressive in this instance, who's to say that other verbs can't do the same?
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 7:25
  • ...they can do the same?
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 11:43
  • So you don't need ている to make a verb progressive? That's my point, in one of my example sentences 言わせる was clearly progressive despite no ている.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 18:47
  • @Joe, I don't think they are progressive. I would use the future tense for all the three sentences in Chinese. You can't say they are progressive just because they take the -ing form in English.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 12:44

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