A question about a verb I don't understand

住んでいました - Sunde imashita

jisho.org tells me:

"住んでいました looks like an inflection of 住む, with these forms: Te-iru-form. It indicates an action that is ongoing. Masu-form. It is the polite form of the verb. Ta-form. It indicates the past tense of the verb."

so I tried this:

住む - sumu - to live

it ends with -mu so it becomes: 住んで - sunde (te form)

and this is as far as I go because I can't seem to understand this part: いました

Could you tell me how that part is formed and the logic behind it ?


2 Answers 2


The -ている, is as you quoted jisho.org, is used to mean it is an ongoing action or a state. That being said, when いる is conjugated to the past (いました), you are indicating that it was ongoing (or in the case of states, was the state of being) in the past.

As 住んでいる{すんでいる}, it would mean you are currently living (in a location).
Ex: 私{わたし}はニューヨークに住んでいます. I am living in New York.

As 住んでいた, it would mean you lived/had been living (in a location).
Ex: 私はニューヨークに住んでいました. I lived in New York.

If you said 住みました I believe it still means "I lived" but I can't find an example of that usage, and from what I have been told it is wrong to use it. That's where the -ている form comes in, indicating that you were living in a location for a period of time, and in English it would be your state of being.

  • I've gone and revised my answer, but I did get a downvote (but no additional feedback) so I'm not sure if my edit fixed the issue that someone found with my answer. If anyone can provide any insight as to why my answer might have been downvoted I'd greatly appreciate the additional feedback so I can make my answer better.
    – Pandacoder
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 12:54

The て(で) + いる(form) is not only used for ongoing actions. It also indicates states, as being married or possessing something:



In the situation of your question, it indicates that the person used to live somewhere (a past state).

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