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What's the difference between

きのう、いちじかんほんをよみました。

and

きのう、いちじかんほんをよんでいました。

?

What would be the equivalent English translations for the two sentences?

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1 Answer 1

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With action verbs like 読む{よむ} the -ている form becomes -ing in English.

昨日{きのう}、一{いち}時間{じかん}本{ほん}を読み{よみ}ました。
I read a book for one hour yesterday.
昨日{きのう}、一{いち}時間{じかん}本{ほん}を読{よ}んでいました。
I was reading a book for one hour yesterday.

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  • Is it just me or would 一時間本を読みました sound a little odd? I feel like if you specify a period of time that you should probably use ~ていた instead of ~た.
    – sazarando
    Jun 15, 2016 at 9:23
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    @sazarando Both sentences sound just fine to me.
    – naruto
    Jun 15, 2016 at 11:45
  • @sazarando If you focus a point in time, past progressive form is appropriate like あなたが電話をくれたとき、私はお風呂に入っていました( I was taking a bath when you called me.). If not, I think both are used as same meaning. Jun 15, 2016 at 13:02
  • (Excuse me if this is a dumb question but) what's the difference of "read a book for one hour yesterday" and "was reading a book for one hour yesterday"?
    – Chocolate
    Jun 17, 2016 at 9:13
  • @chocolate Excellent question. Without any further context both sound identical to me. If I think harder, maybe "was reading a book" sounds more like you are re-living the moment, whereas "read a book" is just a plain, boring statement of fact. How do you think they differ in Japanese? Jun 17, 2016 at 16:05

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