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.


2 Answers 2


"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, 2016 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, 2016 at 15:41
  • Thanks!!! One question, when "quotting" someone speech or thought, what's the difference between と and って ? Sep 23, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 at 18:43
  • I think that's one good way to think about it.
    – HizHa
    Sep 19, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 at 1:48
  • Does this help? en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Japanese/Grammar/…
    – HizHa
    Sep 20, 2016 at 1:58

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