I was wondering about __ていました and its use. By this I mean, is it possible to turn a て form verb into ていました? For example, would you ever use 食べていました instead of 食べました?

Just wondering if it is possible or necessary to use the past tense of ています instead of the typical ました.

1 Answer 1


You usually learn about いる with other subsidiary verbs such as みる、おく、いく、くる、しまう、…

They all follow the te-form of a verb, are usually written in kana and slightly change the meaning of the verb.

~ている is often translated with the progressive in English

I am eating an apple

You can think of combination of [te-form of a verb] + [subsidiary verb] as a new verb. Conjugation is done on the subsidiary verb. For example

past tense of masu-form of     いる =    いました
past tense of masu-form of  食べている = 食べていました "I was eating"

past tense of masu-form of    食べる = 食べ  ました "I ate"

Literally いる means "to be/exist/stay", so literally, 食べて居る【いる】 means "to eat and stay [that way]".

The fact that this literal meaning is lost makes いる a subsidiary verb. That the literal meaning is lost is also a good reason to write いる without kanji.

(This is the same with other subsidiary verbs. For example, ~てみる is often translated "to try to [verb]". Literally, 食べて見る means "to eat and see [what happens]". This literal meaning is lost and みる as subsidiary verb is written in kana.)

N.B. in ~ている the い is often omitted in colloquial speech/writing, e.g.

食べてた = 食べてた "I was eating"

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