In the episode of the anime Sora no Otoshimono linked below, the following exchange occurs several times (beginning at 3:06):

A: 呼んだ? You called?

B: 呼んでねええ No I didn't!

Could someone please explain why B chose to contradict A with 呼んでいない rather than with 呼ばなかった? From my native English perspective, it seems odd that B changed aspect and tense.

To cement the understanding, how (if it makes sense) would the response's meaning have changed if B instead used:

  1. 呼ばなかった or

  2. 呼んでいなかった

Sora no Otoshimono Ep.2.
(watch at one's own discretion... it's not too bad but certainly not completely clean.)

  • 6
    – naruto
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 6:59

2 Answers 2


@snailplane introduced this interesting article to me!

山下 好孝. テンスの「た」とアスペクトの「た」 (PDF)

初級日本語教科書では「~ましたか」の質問に対して,「~ていません」と答えるのを初級の学習者に導入する時は、「もう」と「まだ」を教える時である。(略) しかし、実際は、去年のことやもっと昔のことを開いても、「~ていません」「~てないです」という答え方をする人もいる

The result of a survey in this article shows native speakers' preference between ~ていません and ~ませんでした in various situations. The result of the survey is worth taking a look. You may be surprised to see how often ~ていません is used... and at the same time, how inconsistently native speakers answer :)

There are many situations where you should reply using ~ました/~た if yes, but using ~ていません/~てない if no. This is partly because ~ましたか is an expression that can mean both "Have you [ever/already] ~" (present perfect) and "Did you ~" (past). And for some reason, the use of いる is more preferred in negative responses.

First, when まだ/もう is explicitly present, it's a question using perfect aspect. ~ました/~た (if yes) or ~ていません/~てない (if no) is the natural choice.

  • A: 今日の新聞、もう読んだ? Have you already read today's newspaper?
  • A: 今日の新聞、もう読んでる? Have you already read today's newspaper?

  • B: はい、もう読みました。/うん、もう読んだ。
  • B: はい、もう読んでいます。/うん、もう読んでる。
    (possible but relatively uncommon)
  • B: [×]いいえ、まだ読みませんでした。/[×]いや、まだ読まなかった。
    (This seems to be a common mistake Japanese learners make)
  • B: いいえ、まだ読んでいません。/いや、まだ読んでない。

This may seem already inconsistent to you, but according to the article, this is the typical case where learners learn about this "problem". This is how this kind of question works in Japanese. "もう読んだ?" is not "Did you ~" but "Have you ~".

まだ/もう may not be explicitly present. At around 12:30 PM at some office, someone may say:

  • A: お昼食べた? Have you eaten lunch? (If no, let's go lunch together!)
  • A: お昼食べてる? Have you eaten lunch?
    (Of course this can also mean "Are you eating lunch (now)?")

  • B: はい、食べました。/うん、食べた。
  • B: はい、食べています。/うん、食べてる。 (relatively uncommon)
  • B: [×]いいえ、食べませんでした。/[×]いや、食べなかった。
  • B: いいえ、食べていません。/いや、食べてない。

This is still a "Have you already" type question.

Things get trickier from here, but when asked something definitely in the past using "~しましたか?/~した?", native speakers tend to associate the question to something at present and answer using perfect aspect:

  • A: 辛そうだね。昨日またいっぱい飲んだの? You look sick. Did you drink a lot again yesterday?

  • B: はい、飲みました。/うん、飲んだ。
  • B: はい、飲んでいます。/うん、飲んでる。
  • B: [?]いいえ、飲みませんでした。/[?]いや、飲まなかった。
  • B: いいえ、飲んでいません。/いや、飲んでない。

When to choose ~ていません/~てない seems to be affected by how much the action in the past is related to the current situation, and how recent thing you are asked about. In the question above, A is asking something relatively recent, and whether B drank a lot yesterday is something that matters now ("why I look sick now"). This also answers why 呼んでねえ (colloquialism of 呼んでいない) was used in the sentence in question. He was asked about something only a moment before, and whether he had called or not in the past was something important when the question was made.

Actually, most questions you make about the past are usually more or less related to the present situation, so you will hear ~ていません/~てない very often. It's rather hard for me to think of a context where 食べませんでした is definitely better than 食べてないです. But, for example, if someone asks 「3年前に京都に旅行に行ったとき、八つ橋は食べた?」 then people would probably answer saying 「いや、食べなかった」 more often than 「いや、食べてない」.

There is an exception. Certain verbs that happen passively (聞こえる, 見える, 分かる, etc) are mainly used with ~た/~なかった.

  • A: 先週の先生の話は分かりましたか?

  • B: いいえ、分かりませんでした。
  • B: [×]いいえ、分かっていません。
  • Naruto-さん Can you please explain between the nuance of ませんでした and ていません, if もう is not used/not intended, because did not eat, as per my understanding would imply that I did not eat food and would construe as a statement and would not imply I will eat in the future/now. As when ている is used its main point is that an action has started (In case of durative) So as per my understanding ていません would imply that I have not eaten (In a sense that I have not started, and I can/will/etc eat later/now). So when I apply my reasoning it works most of the time.
    – APK
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:18
  • (Cont.) However in your sentence of "いいえ、飲んでいません" it doesn't, and I am not able to understand the difference. Also I am thinking that my understanding of ていない is wrong. 教えてください
    – APK
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:21

Actually English is not so different:

A: Did you get any milk?

B: No, I haven't (yet).

This is slightly unnatural without the "yet", but if you want to put "yet" in you have to use the present perfect negative. Similarly, here 呼んでいない means that it definitely hasn't happened yet, but could, perhaps. In contrast, suppose there's a party, and we have the following dialogue (between two Russians):

К: ジョンさんを呼んだ?

Б: いや、呼ばなかった。

"Did you invite John?" "No, I didn't." This is not a denial of him having been invited (yet), but a finished assertion that he is not going to be. There is a sort of "Aspect" difference, but I don't know any sufficiently well-defined or consistent terminology here. (For example, my English example of "haven't (got)" is present perfect tense, but seems to correspond to a sort of imperfective aspect.)

  • 2
    But a typical response to "お前が彼を殺したのか?" is either "はい、私が殺しました" or "いいえ、私は殺していません" but not "いいえ、私は殺さなかった". Saying 殺していない never implies the speaker may kill someone (else) in the near future, so whether the statement is "finished" or not may not be very important.
    – naruto
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 10:23
  • 1
    ^ そうですね・・・『それでも僕はやってない』が『それでも僕はやらなかった』だと変ですもんね・・(なんかちょっと意味が変わっちゃいますよね・・)
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 3:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .