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そんなわけで、まだ日も暮れない夕方の通学路を、駅に向かってゆっくりと歩く俺と加藤。

I encountered this quote in a light novel and am stuck on how to interpret it. It feels like 歩く should be "walking" in this context, but it is not 歩いている. The sentence does not seem to express future or habitual action like the dictionary form of a verb usually does either.

  • 歩く is an action verb. I think using 歩く instead of 歩いている to modify a noun is slightly literary. (But even ending a sentence with 歩く instead of 歩いていた may be common in novels.) – Yang Muye Jun 18 '15 at 12:19
  • It seems there has been a similar question to mine. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/14523/… However, I find the answers unsatisfactory because there are no official sources listed. It seems strange that something as important as verbs in relative clauses has no official information written on it. – Joe Jun 18 '15 at 18:53
  • In fact, there are. There are a lot. If I recall correctly, 金田一 春 mentioned using action verb's plain form in relative clause in his 日本語動詞のアスペクト. (But I still suspect that the choice of 歩く here has to do with the genre ) – Yang Muye Jun 19 '15 at 0:56
  • Could you tell me what page of that book has that information? – Joe Jun 19 '15 at 3:20
  • 2
    @YangMuye You mean prof. 金田一 春彦... – nodakai Mar 15 '16 at 18:38
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Saying 歩いている俺と加藤 is not wrong at all, but 歩く俺と加藤 looks more vivid and interesting. This writing style is especially preferred in a script of a drama, sport news, etc. Sticking to the present tense is one of the fundamental rules of writing a screenplay, according to this page.

This style is sometimes called historical present as opposed the past tense, but the general idea is that the employment of the pure dictionary-form is an effective way to express something vividly with a "you-are-there" feeling. Using ている is redundant and can make this sentence a bit dull.

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You can use verbs in dictionary form to express the action of the noun.

You can also change most of the verbs into ている forms without any change in meaning.

You can also use た forms, especially if there are time words marking past like 昨日 etc.

All in all, all they are doing is acting like an adjective to describe the noun it is connected to. So you are correct in your translation. You can confirm the tense (ended action or future action etc.) by the text around the sentence. Hope that helps.

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Japanese verbs don't really have tense. They are more aspect based.

  • Is the action completed? 歩いた
  • Or not completed? 歩く

Also, 歩く is a verb of movement(移動動詞)like 森を走る or 空を飛ぶ, so it uses を and already implies an action that takes place over a period of time.

So, the sentence you provide from the book is part of a story narrative. It's very common for Japanese to prefer the imperfect aspect (not yet completed action) in such a narrative context. After all, the story isn't over yet right? :P

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There's not really enough context for a translation of the whole sentence, but I would do the following with the verb in question...

駅に向かってゆっくりと**歩く**俺と加藤。

Kato and I slowly walked toward the station.

Kato and I leisurely made our way to the station.

I would choose "walked" or "made our way" in the past tense because it's clear from the context that this is a narrative about something that has already happened.

I guess you could go with...

Kato and I were slowly walking to the station.

...if you wanted to emphasize that part.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the fact that 歩く isn't 歩いている doesn't in any way rule out the idea that it's a progressive action taking place in the past. The verb 歩く in this context already gives that information, so if the author had chosen to write...

駅に向かってゆっくりと歩いている俺と加藤。

... then the basic meaning would not change and there wouldn't be any grammatical problems, but it would seem like he was emphasizing the "we were walking" part for some reason.

  • In the context of the sentence, they haven't reached the station yet. – Joe Jun 13 '16 at 3:19
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OP says he/she is "stuck on how to interpret it."

Either of the following works :

そんなわけで、まだ日も暮れない夕方の通学路を、駅に向かってゆっくりと歩いている俺と加藤。

そんなわけで、まだ日も暮れない夕方の通学路を、駅に向かってゆっくりと歩く俺と加藤。

The latter sounds more like a line from a movie (TV drama) script. The narrator probably imagines himself a hero in a movie or a TV drama.

It also seems like a voice-over description.

( Described video service (DVS) provides people who are visually impaired a voice-over description of a program’s key visual elements with narration that is inserted during natural pauses in program dialogue. DVS generally presents actions that are not reflected in the dialogue, such as the movement of a person in a scene. )

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This is still marked unanswered, but two of the above answers are correct. The most salient point is that 歩いている would draw special attention to the ongoing action itself, as if to prepare the listener for something that was going to happen. For example if they were walking and then they noticed something on the ground.

Also, it feels more literary or "painting a static picture" (rather than conjuring up a moving picture in the listener's mind) as someone else noted.

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Disclaimer: I'm not an grammar expert, but I too was also struggling with this, and not just with relative clauses. :-)

I think you're mistaking it as future tense, when it's actually the infinitive tense. My advice would be to compare it (surprisingly) to English:

While the sun hadn't yet set, we walk towards the station.

Vs:

While the sun hadn't yet set, we were walking towards the station.

It seems like in Japanese, just as in English, the preference is to use the infinitive tense (the first sentence) in literature. In conversations, you'd use the second form.

  • 1
    "Infinitive" isn't a tense... – Blavius Dec 21 '16 at 16:38
  • @Blavius Is the gist of what I was saying correct? Maybe the correct term is "continuous tense". I already mentioned that I'm not a grammar expert so I don't think there's any need for the downvote for someone who's trying to help. – gav.newalkar Jan 4 '17 at 21:08
  • You may or may not be on the right track, but I'm not the downvoter so I can't really explain the downvote. – Blavius Jan 5 '17 at 19:54

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