I tried to find this answer in other questions in order to not duplicate it, but i couldn't find one answer for that.

So I was trying to make the following sentence

There's a ramen restaurant in my town. My friend said that there it is delicious, so I want to go there.

People on hellotalk helped to make my sentence more natural, like changing レストラン for 屋, and the sentence came out like this:


I understood the whole sentence but one part "言っていた" this is supposed to mean that my friend told me something right. I just don't get the whole "verb te form+いた".

Can you help me with that? Thanks in advance.


"verb te form + いた"

~ていた has several meanings/usages, which include:

  • A continuous action in the past (Past progressive tense) -- for action verbs

    • 彼が来たとき、私はテレビを見ていた。I was watching TV when he came.
    • そのころ、私はピアノを弾いていた。I was playing piano around that time.
  • A state in the past -- for verbs that describe changes in state, eg 死ぬ, 知る, 持つ, 結婚する etc.

    • 彼は死んでいた。 He was dead.
      (Not "He was dying." 彼は死んだ would be "He died.")
    • 彼は車を持っていた。 He had a car.
      (He was in the state of having a car, not in the middle of the action of having a car. 車を持った would indicate the action of having/getting a car.)
    • 彼女は結婚していた。 She was married.
      (彼女は結婚した would be "She got married.")
  • An action that occurred before another action occurred in the past (Something similar to the past perfect tense in English)

    • 駅に着くと、もう電車は出発していた
      The train had already left when I got to the station.
    • 彼が来たときには、私は宿題を終えていた
      I had finished my homework when / by the time he came.
    • パーティはすでに始まっていた
      The party had already begun.

And, in your example:

  • In reported speech (especially in conversation) -- When you tell someone what another person has said to you.
    • 山田さんは、東京に行くと言っていたよ。(≂ 行くそうだよ。)
      Yamada-san said / I heard Yamada-san say that he was going to Tokyo.
      (rather than 山田さんは、東京に行くと言ったよ。) 
    • 彼はなんと言っていましたか? -- 今日は来ないと言っていました。(≂ 来ないそうです。)
      What did he say? -- He said he would not come today.
      (rather than 彼はなんと言いましたか? -- 今日は来ないと言いました。)
    • ニュースで、大きな地震があったって言ってたよ。
      I heard on TV news that there was a big earthquake.


Here, おいしいと言っていたので is more natural than おいしいと言ったので, since it's reported speech. This is like "I heard my friend say..." or "My friend told me..."

I think it'd be even more natural to say it this way:


  • Add the topical は. 「僕の街に~~」
  • Leave out the second 僕の. It's obvious whose friend you're talking about here.
  • Add です at the end, since you used polite あります in the first sentence.
  • Alternatively, you could say 行きたいと思っています。 or 行ってみたいです。


  • Could you please explain or elaborate on why you used 着く rather than 着いた in your example "駅に着くと、もう電車は出発していた"?
    – G-Cam
    Sep 21 '16 at 12:36
  • 2
    @G-Cam The conjunctive particle と follows the dictionary form verb, so you say 「着く+と」(when/if ~ arrive), not 「*着いた+と」. If you used たら (= the hypothetical form of the auxiliary verb た), then you'd say 「着い+たら」.
    – Chocolate
    Sep 21 '16 at 15:41
  • Thanks!!! One question, when "quotting" someone speech or thought, what's the difference between と and って ? Sep 23 '16 at 19:13
  • って is more colloquial than と. E.g. 「友達がおいしいと言っていたので・・・」-> more casually/colloquially:「友達がおいしいって言ってたから・・・」
    – Chocolate
    Sep 24 '16 at 1:26
  • sorry for the continuous trouble, but can you explain me the difference between 見ていた and 見てた? Is it any different or removing the い just makes it little more colloquial? Sep 27 '16 at 3:45

You could say :


But what you have (in the OP) is a more sophisticated way to put it, which is an abbreviated ( less sophisticated ) way of saying :


(1) Because I had been told X,  (2) I began to think Y.

2 happened in the past, and 1 happened even before it.

言っていた is a Jp way of expressing this "tense-" relationship.

I think French and Spanish have a more established way of expressing this than English does. (The usual sentence pattern is: -- When i got to the station, the train had just left. When i saw him, he was at the bank.)

When I saw him, he was carrying a red bag.


My seeing him happened in the past, and his having (obtaining, grabbing) 持つ the bag happened even before that, and 持っていた is a Jp way of expressing this "tense-" relationship.

This [red bag] example is a paraphrase of the following :



「持っていた」の例では、その全体が過去のことになっています。この話し手が「田中さんがかばんを持っている」のを見たのが過去のある時で、「田中さんがカバンを持った」のはそれよりも前の時点で す。

    (「その時」より前に)持った → (その時)持っていた 

(For me, at least) 言っていた, 持っていた feel like [imperfect tense] in French and Spanish. ----- 半過去 in French, 線過去(不完了過去) in Spanish.

半過去: 継続している過去、 終わりがはっきりしていない過去(未完了)、 そのシーンの背景。 過去の進行中の行為。 過去の習慣(何度か行ったこと)。

"My friend had been saying" may be a great way to think about it.

I can't find a good page (or any page) on this in English. Is there one?

  • I understand what you mean, but i can't really tell the difference between the two conjugations, would it be the difference between "My friend told me" and "My friend had been saying"? I'm not sure :( Sep 19 '16 at 18:43
  • I think that's one good way to think about it.
    – HizHa
    Sep 19 '16 at 18:56
  • Thank you so much for your answer. I'll wait to see if anyone else have a different approach in this question! Sep 19 '16 at 19:15
  • Hey, thank you for the complement, I understand it, one last thing, if i want to turn another verb into this tenso, let's say [行く] how do i do this? Te form plus いる or ある in the past? or what Sep 20 '16 at 1:48
  • Does this help? en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Japanese/Grammar/…
    – HizHa
    Sep 20 '16 at 1:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.