Japanese tenses seem very different from English. Please look at this sentence:


If translated in English, it should be:

When I was thinking, the telephone rang

I think the front part of this sentence should be 考えていた最中。

How should I deal with Japanese tense?

  • 1
    Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/25376/3506 – marasai Sep 22 '16 at 11:59
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    the telephone rang は 電話がかけられました より「電話がかかってきました」のほうがいいですよね – Chocolate Sep 22 '16 at 14:13
  • @chocolate +1, if you translate 電話がかけられました into English directly, it would be the telephone was rung, which is really weird – Frederick Zhang Sep 22 '16 at 15:25
  • @chocolate, I interpreted that as the やられた kind of passive, indicating that the subject suffered a negative effect. この解釈は間違っているわけですか。 – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 22 '16 at 22:57
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    I'd say 「考えている最中 電話がかかってきました/電話が鳴りました」 – Chocolate Sep 23 '16 at 5:45

This answer, as shared in comment, can be applied against this question too, I think.

I was not really aware of how Japanese tense works, but every example in the answer sounds plausible, at least for me.

So the short answer for this question would be: it's because in Japanese tense of a clause works relative against the main clause.


Now I'm NOT an expert, but in general Japanese either uses past-tense, or no tense at all/the tense being implied by the context.

This feels weird at first, but you'll get used to it.

Also don't try getting your sentences to sound right in English, Japanese is NOT English, and thus you must accept that good Japanese will often make for weird/bad English sentences.

For example, 食べる would mean 'eat' or 'to eat', in English. However Japanese is so context-based that this single verb could be an entire sentence, meaning something like 'i am eating', or 'she is eating', or even asking a question 'are you eating?' simply due to context.

Hope this helped a tidbit lad! :D

PS. It also doesn't mandate a distinction between singular and plural, in fact it lets you ignore a ton of stuff so long as the context implies it.

PPS. Sorry if my answer is a tad 'messy' in its presentation, lol.


考えてい makes sense because 考えている is modifying 最中.

Question: What kind of 最中 were you in?
Answer: 考えている最中

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