Me and my friend were talking about death and the universe and ect. But I tried to write:


He then corrected me by writing


I don't understand the ~んでいます at the end of the sentence. Also what's wrong with what I originally said? My friend can't really give me a good answer to why I should write the second one.

  • Because 死ぬ is a verb. 死 does not by itself make up a word. 死ぬ>死にます>死んでいます。(To die>Dying>To be dead). If however you wanted to say it died it would be 死にました OR 亡くなりました OR 死亡しました。 Also what exactly is 瀬間? Apart from someone's name, I can't find this in any of my usual dictionaries. You did say death and the universe so for all I know it could be a name of the person that died. Jun 11, 2015 at 2:50
  • 瀬間 is my friends name. But thanks for the explaination! :D. Are there anymore verbs that I should be aware about that have this kind of ending?
    – Mavain
    Jun 11, 2015 at 2:52
  • I am sure someone will post a more in depth answer after but my comment would be the gist of why your friend told you to write it as 死んでいます。 Jun 11, 2015 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


「んでいます」 is not a single unit, you're splitting the word in the wrong place.

How to break down 死んでいます

「死んで」 is the -te form of 「死ぬ」. You then connect that to 「いる」 (or if you're being polite, 「います」). Together, they form the -te-iru form of 「死ぬ」: 「死んでいる」

The -te-iru form

The -te-iru form of a verb has multiple meanings, and depending on the type of verb, those meanings differ. In the case of 「死ぬ」 (which is a state-change verb)...

"is dead" (stative reading)
"are dying" (iterative meaning) (like, multiple different things are dying)

So, 「瀬間は死んでいます。」 unambiguously means "瀬間 is dead.", given the understanding that 「瀬間」 is a person's name (preventing the iterative meaning, since that would be a singular subject). On the other hand, if 「瀬間」 were the name of a species or something, then it'd likely be the iterative meaning.

What you said

You said 「瀬間は死でした。」, which means something like "瀬間 was death." In your sentence, 「でした」 is the polite past-tense copula, and 「死」 is the noun for "death". I can't think of any time you'd want to say this outside of fiction. That said, your sentence is at least grammatical.


Because what you're trying to say would require 死 to be used as a verb, and the way your buddy put it as 死んでいます means "is in a dead state" or "is dead", rather than "…died".

If you want to say "he IS dead" you would say かれは死んでいます。To say "he was dead." you would say かれは死んでいた or 死んでいました。 You would never use でした for this because you are dealing with a verb not an adjective.

Hard to explain, but maybe someone will have a better more succinct explanation for you.

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