I'm new to Japanese. I have learned that 帰らなかった is the past negative of 帰る. Later, I found 帰ってなかった which I don't know what is it.

  • Can you clarify what you're asking? Are you asking which you should use when? Both words can be used (albeit in different contexts). – vel Feb 28 '17 at 23:13
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Why 来ています rather than 来ました – istrasci Feb 28 '17 at 23:28
  • I just finished basic grammar. I have learned that 帰らなかった is the past negative of 帰る, for 帰ってなかった I never seen before in this state. So, the question should be "what are differences between these two". – Panupong Srichompu Mar 1 '17 at 10:33

The progressive forms, such as 「~ている」「~ていない」「~ていた」「~ていなかった」, can be used to indicate an ongoing/continuous action, eg:

書いている (present progressive) "I am writing"
書いていない (present progressive negative) "I am not writing"
書いていた (past progressive) "I was writing"
書いていなかった (past progressive negative) "I was not writing"

The い after the te-form verb often gets dropped in casual speech, as in 書いてる, 書いてない, 書いてた, 書いてなかった.

These progressive forms can also be used to indicate a completed action or resultant state.

帰っている is the progressive form of 帰る. 帰っている, often contracted to 帰ってる, is usually used to mean "have (already) returned". 帰っていない, often contracted to 帰ってない, is the negative form of 帰っている.

  • 帰っている (present progressive) "have (already) returned / have (already) come back"
  • 帰っていない* (present progressive negative) "have not returned / have not come back (yet)"


「もしもし。太郎さん(は)いらっしゃいますか。」 Hello. May I speak to Taro?
-- 「まだ帰って(い)ません。」 He has not come home yet.

Now back to your question, 帰ってなかった is a contraction of 帰ってなかった, and is the negative form of 帰っていた, which is also often contracted to 帰ってた. In other words, 帰っていなかった is the past form of 帰っていない.

  • 帰っていた (past progressive) "had (already) returned / had (already) come back (at/by some point in the past)"
  • 帰っていなかった (past progressive negative) "had not returned / had not come back (yet) (at/by some point in the past)"


When Hanako called, Taro had not come home yet.

*~~ていない can also mean "didn't do~~". For more, see this thread.

  • In addition to your answer, do you think it would be correct to say, "帰らなかった is used when discussing the action of not going home and 帰っていなかった is used when discussing the state of not being home?" – G-Cam Mar 2 '17 at 17:57
  • @G-Cam Yes, I think 帰っていなかった can be used for the state of not being home. But it's usually used in the sense of "was not home yet / when something happened" or "was away from home for certain period of time (eg 1年間家に帰っていなかった)" . I mean, it's not always interchangeable with いなかった. For example, you'd say あの日の夜は家にいなかった for "I wasn't home that night", but not あの日の夜は家に帰っていなかった to mean that. – Chocolate Mar 3 '17 at 4:01

I'm not sure what you are seeking for, but I show you the difference between the two epressions.

帰らなかった (action)
ex:「娘は昨晩家に帰らなかった」My daughter stayed out all night.
帰ってなかった (status)
ex: 「今朝ベッドを見ると、娘は帰ってなかった」I found my daughter's bed empty this morning. (She has not returned yet.)

  • Yeah this is fairly important. I think that many Japanese learners, myself included, were taught that the +いるverb form corresponded only to the present continuous form in English. – Leo Mar 1 '17 at 9:42

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