4

アメリカへ行ったことがある。(lit: I have been to America.)

Which is the correct other translation?

A: There is a time when I went to America.

B: There was a time when I went to America.

Bonus question: Is it possible to say アメリカへ行ったことがあった or アメリカへ行ったことがなかった ?

  • 1
    What's the difference between A and B? – oals Dec 6 '16 at 9:55
  • @oals: Is there no difference? Why? – Money Oriented Programmer Dec 6 '16 at 9:57
  • I don't know -- I'm asking you. I can't spot any. – oals Dec 6 '16 at 9:58
4

The ことがある grammar structure can be used with both a past and a non-past verb form, but with different meaning.

For the meaning you wish to convey, we can use a past tense verb: Vpast +ことがある

It means literally something like "there was a time when..."

But in terms of English translation, it is best looked at in question form first.

アメリカへ行ったことがありますか

is the equivalent of "Have you ever been to America?" Making a statement with these grammar therefore means that you have done or experienced something before.

アメリカへ行ったことがあります

 - "I have been to America (and that experience has stayed with me)"

This is different from アメリカへ行きました which simply means "I went to America"

Using Vnon-past +ことがある expresses something like "there are times when..." and expresses that something happens from time to time.

For example

朝ごはんを食べずに学校に行くことがあります

 - "There are times when I go to school without eating breakfast".

2

I would say that either translation could be used, especially as an intermediate translation before tidying up the language. For the final translation, though, it is likely that I would use the much simpler "I have been to America [before]."

2

ことがある

Means : There is

That usage is meant to say : There is such an event in my life where X happened.

Unless you got the power to travel through time and change history,

アメリカへ行ったことがあった

Is impossible.
It would mean you had the experience of going there, but you don't have it anymore.

On the other hand

アメリカへ行ったことがなかった

Is quite natural.
It means that until you went, you had never been there.(It was your first time.)

As far as English go. I feel like "there was" would have a similar meaning to "there is".

  • There such an even in my life... <- There is such an event in my life... ですよね、たぶん…?until you went, you had never went <- you had never been とか you had never gone とはまた違う意味で書かれているんですかね…? – Chocolate Dec 7 '16 at 4:50
  • @chocolate Thank you for your corrections. These are quite embarrassing mistakes. – stack reader Dec 7 '16 at 5:17

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