Say that I am currently eating something, would I say 今食べています, or would I say 今食べます?

Similarly, if I want to say that I know English, would I use 英語をしります or would I use 英語を知っています?

What's the difference in parsing these sentences, too? I understand that Vている implies some kind of continuation of state, or an activity that lasts for some time; but can't the dictionary form also express that?

Thank you

  • The verb 知る is almost always used in the progressive form when it's not negative: 知っていますwill pretty much always be preferred over 知ります. (This doesn't really apply to the negative for some reason- 知らない is perfectly fine.)
    – Blavius
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 19:03
  • I knew about this exception, so I think it was a bad example to use in retrospect.
    – q3d
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 20:26
  • 知る is "to get knowledge/information". It's an action verb (more technically, It's an instant action). On the other hand, to know is "to have knowledge/information" It's a stative verb. Thus, we use 知った(past action) + いる (keep that result) = 知っている = 知っています.
    – marasai
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 3:10

1 Answer 1


~ている means "am currently doing" (Think v+ing in English) Dictionary form is more general.

So in answer to your questions: 今食べています is I'm eating (literally in the act of doing). 今食べます works fine grammatically but it has a different meaning. If you were asked when you were going to eat, you could reply with 今食べます which would mean you are going to start right now.

For speaking English, the examples would be more natural using 話す。 英語を話します = I speak English. (As with in English, you're able to speak English, but maybe aren't specifically doing it right now). 英語を話しています = I am speaking English. (The words coming out of your mouth, right now, are English... and hopefully they sound that way). :)

There are some pitfalls where your English speaking brain will want to use one over the other, but it's more natural to use the reverse. Don't worry about that for now though.

  • 1
    Thanks. What about uses which are for habit? For example, 英語を教えている could refer to teaching English right now but couldn't it also refer to your occupation/habit? Do I just deduce which is which from context?
    – q3d
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 18:31
  • 1
    @q3d: Yes, you should (but are not necessarily always able to) deduce from context. Probably Japanese has too much of pragmatics (sigh.)
    – eltonjohn
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 2:56
  • Sorry for the late reply. As for the situational ones, you'll just have to see as they come. :) One that seemed weird to me was the use of 持っている. For example, when using it to state you have a certification. When talking about JLPT, people would ask 何j級持っている? And my brain would tell me "what level are you holding?" Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:42

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