I saw this sentence and its translation in a textbook

She doesn't like fat cats

I was under the impression that 「太ってる猫」 means something like “cat that is in the state of becoming fat”, which basically means “fat”, so I was wondering:

What's the difference between 「太ってる猫」 and 「太った猫」?

If a cat has been fat since birth, is it true that in this situation then, we can only use 「太っている猫」 and not 「太った猫」 since the cat was already fat right from the start and did not “get fat”?

2 Answers 2


〜ている can indicate a completed-action state, not just in-progress actions.

  • 結婚している → is (currently) married
  • 開いているお店 → a store that is open
  • 太っている → is fat

To disambiguate these states from in-progress, you can use 〜つつある for "happening right now". I've mentioned this in another thread, but don't remember which one at the momemt (will update later if I find it).

  • 店が開きつつあります → The store is opening right now (you can see the metal shutters going up, etc.)

But back to the original question, both 〜ている and 〜た can be used for descriptions. It just may seem a little strange to an English speaker at first.

  • ワイシャツを着ている人 → A person wearing (in-progress) a white-collar shirt.
  • ワイシャツを着た人 → A person who "wore"/put-on (and still has on) a white-collar shirt.

  • 太っている猫 → A cat who is currently fat.
  • 太った猫 → A cat who got/become (and still is) fat.

AFAIK, the two are pretty interchangeable for descriptions. I'm not sure if either has any limitations of the other. And as I said, it may seem strange at first, but eventually it will become second-nature.

  • 5
    I was under the impression that 太っている猫 would usually carry the implication that the cat got fat and is still fat and that 太った猫 would mean the cat was fat at some time in the past without necessarily having that implication (so it may or may not be fat now, depending on context)? And then (past this point, my experience is less substantial) 太っていた猫 would mean the cat that was in the state of being fat. Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 20:06
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    I also feel that 太った would would differ from 太っている by placing more emphasis on the action. However, I think using it in a relative clause like this causes it to lose a lot of that emphasis. Without the relative clause, you could use 太った in certain cases where 太っている would make little sense or have different meaning. 日本に行っている時、太った。-> I became fat while I was in Japan. 日本に行って太った。-> I went to Japan and got fat. I guess I should have just made an answer, huh? I'll make one later today when I have some free time... Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 20:19
  • Thanks for the help guys =) Btw I was wondering, If a cat was fat since birth, is it true that in that situation we can only use 「太っている猫」 and 「太った猫」would not be applicable since the cat was already fat from the beginning and did not "get fat" ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 7:43
  • 5
    This answer is not correct. 太った猫 does not necessarily mean that the cat got fat, it simply means it is fat. sawa's answer is correct. Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 16:15

In relative clauses, past tense can be neutralized. There is no clear difference in meaning between 太っている猫 and 太った猫.

To express that the cat was fat in the past, you say 太っていた猫. The reason you cannot say 太い猫 is because the i-adjective 太い means 'bold', and does not mean '(become) fat' as the verb 太る does. And if you say 太る猫, it means 'a cat that will become fat', not 'a cat that is fat'.

If you say あの人は太い, it does not directly mean 'that person is fat', but means 'that person is thick', which can be mentioning the arms, the male genital, or whatever. However, it can be taken as a euphemism of 'that person is fat'.

The nuance of the euphemism is comparable to the English expression 'that person is horizontally scaled'. It does not exactly mean 'fat'.

  • Belated congrats on 10k ! =D Btw I was wondering what do you think about Nathan's comments, that 「太ってる猫」 states the cat "is current fat" (present), While「太った猫」 could mean either the cat was fat in the past, but may be or may not be fat right now?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 7:38
  • @Pacerier I think sawa means that their difference is negligible in relative clauses, so the answer to your question would be "no difference".
    – Flaw
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 9:08
  • @Flaw ic, btw I've edited the question with the point on If a cat was fat since birth..
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 9:57
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    @Pacerier Then why not just only use the adjective 太い ?
    – Flaw
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 10:41
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    @sawa Heys btw 太い was listed as 'fat / thick / deep / bold / lucky', I was wondering could you elaborate more on the point on why 太い means 'bold' and not 'fat'? Is it a case where people simply do not use 太い when mentioning 'fat things' / 'fat people' ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 0:34

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