In my textbook it states there are three groups of verbs used with て form when followed by the helping verb いる

(1) verbs that describe continuous states
(2) verbs that describe activities that last for some time
(3) verbs that descirbe changes that are more or less instantaneous

based on the "semantics"(I take that to mean characteristics) of a verb it can fall into any of these three groups.

For the first group I all know is ある and いる and they are never used with いる. As for the second and third group this is where the confusion starts. Some verbs fall into group 2

verb group 2 ex: たべる、よむ、まつ

and some, fall into group 3

verb group 3 ex: いく、 くる、 わかる、 のる

I can't tell which category each verb goes into and depending on the category depends on the meaning of the verb. Although the chapter gives a lot of examples and shows me which category they go in I can't seem to figure them all out. I know in the following chapters it will give more verbs too so I'd like to be able to figure out where they go. The chapter also gave a good example on how determine whether a verb belongs to group 2 or 3 by checking if the verb allows for a phrase describing duration if it doesn't its in group 3. I've been trying to use this to sort the two but I keep running into examples that I think make sense but are in group three.

ex. コンピューターは いちじかんけしました
the computer turned off for 1 hour

This makes sense to me but is also a verb in 3. So I'm just wondering if anyone could teach me a trick or give me advice as to how to tell what category a verb is in. (sorry for the longer question)

  • You don't understand how "turn off" can be more or less instantaneous?
    – dainichi
    Oct 1, 2015 at 1:46
  • @dainichi No, I get that it is instantaneous, admittedly this one is in chapter though. I just felt like it could also be an activity that lasts for some time as well. But I've been thinking about it a while and I think I understand the example from the chapter now. If the phrase describing duration is using a instantaneous verb the verb should do something and then the rest of the time should be spent doing the end result of that? >ex: わたしは うちに いちじかんはいる The entering of the house is instant and then the rest of the 1hour is spent in the house?
    – Nate
    Oct 1, 2015 at 3:57
  • In the end, you have to judge it from the context, because an identical verb can be used across the categories.
    – user4092
    Oct 1, 2015 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


Zeno Vendler (1957) classified verbs into four categories: those that express "activity", "accomplishment", "achievement" and "state". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_aspect

In your text, I think accomplishment and achievement are in one category, but they are basically the same, and this is the original form. In Japanese, Kindaichi found a similar phenomenon in 1950.

Firstly, the first important point is that which category a verb with a certain meaning falls into is different from language to language. For example, ‘have’ and ‘know’ are stative in English, but 持つ and 知る are activities. That means it is not a perfect idea to translate a verb to know its category. Still, they are close.


わたしは うちに いちじかん はいる

does not make sense to me.

Secondly, here are some examples of stative verbs in Japanese. There are less stative verbs comparing to English, so I think it is not hard to remember.

日本語の「足りる」、「違う」、「似る」、「痛む」、「ヒリヒリする」、「見える」、「思う」、可能動詞、補助動詞としての「過ぎる」 https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%8A%B6%E6%85%8B%E5%8B%95%E8%A9%9E

Lastly, the difference between “action” and “achievement or accomplishment” are not that difficult. Check what happens if someone interrupts you while doing it. For example, if you are running and someone interrupts you, you can still say "I ran." (2nd category.) But, if you are arriving or building it and someone interrupts you, you cannot say "I arrived" nor "I built it." (3rd category)

There are several other tests here by Vendler.


  • I'm also going to add this japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/1659/… to the answer because I felt like the second answer in this question helped me understand verbs that were stative in english being dynamic (activites) in japanese
    – Nate
    Oct 2, 2015 at 16:58
  • These differences sometimes lead Japanese people to stupid misunderstandings too. For example, a Japanese asks the way to somewhere in English and gets an answer, then s/he sometimes say "I know." instead of "I see."
    – Keita ODA
    Oct 3, 2015 at 9:18

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