In the sentence


why is it 音を表しことば rather than 音を表していることば?

I'm reading https://japanese.stackexchange.com/a/11976 but I'm not sure if this sentence produces a resultative state (like the answer suggests). I've also read that た can also indicate a continuative state/action like ている does, and the justification is that in relative clauses the past tense can be neutralized, but I don't seem to understand this correctly. I've found this example (from https://japanese.stackexchange.com/a/3362)

A person wearing (in-progress) a white-collar shirt

A person who "wore"/put-on (and still has on) a white-collar shirt.

A cat who is currently fat

A cat who got/become (and still is) fat

but I'm not sure if this applies to every verb or just some verbs (maybe 表す?). Also, does the verb being transitive/intransitive affect the meaning of た as non-past?

  • 2
    possibly related: onomatopoeia also uses した: ちょっとしたほっとした etc. Feb 28, 2017 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


シャツを着た人 can be interpreted either as "a person who (then) put on a shirt" or "a person wearing a shirt". On the other hand, シャツを着ている人 can also mean either "a person who is putting on a shirt" or "a person wearing a shirt". So, they are a paraphrase when they are used in the latter usage respectively.


Does this apply to every verb or just some verbs (maybe 表す?)

When [verb] + 「た」is modifying a noun like in the examples above it almost always means that the action happened and it's effect on the modified noun still holds true within the context of the utterance.

Does the verb being transitive/intransitive affect the meaning?

I don't think there is any special difference between transitive and intransitive usages.

Intransitive Examples:

  • 間違った答え
  • 結婚した男性

Transitive Examples:

  • ビールを飲んだ男
  • 料金所を通過した車
  • 1
    So, writing 音を表したことば is the same as writing 音を表していることば?
    – Jon
    Feb 26, 2017 at 11:55
  • 1
    In a way, because there is some overlapping meaning, yes. But the difference can become greater or lesser depending on the meaning (not transitivity) of the verb involved. Like the difference between ビールを飲んだ男 and ビールを飲んでいる男. In this case 飲んだ sounds like the man is finished with drinking at the moment, but it still has an effect on him, as in 「ビールを飲んだ男はゆっくりと立ち上がった」but 飲んでいる sounds more like the man is currently still in the act of drinking within the context, as in 「夫はビールを飲んでいる人です」.
    – sazarando
    Feb 26, 2017 at 17:53
  • 2
    In any case, た seems to emphasize the continued effect of an action, whereas ている seems to emphasize the continuation of the action itself.
    – sazarando
    Feb 26, 2017 at 17:53

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