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I had someone ask me what the difference between these two are, presumably because Google Translate said "was crying" for both 泣【な】いていた and 泣きしていた.

My attempt to answer his question involved how the first is the informal past continuous conjugation, and the second one is made up of two words. I see 泣き, taken from 泣く, since it's a 五段【ごだん】 verb, and I also see していた as the informal past continuous form of する.

So, what I told him was that the first is "was crying" and the second is "was having tears", though they could both be used as "was crying".

My question is did I explain the meanings correctly? It was quite a shot in the dark for me, just googling grammar. Thanks in advance!

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    I believe that you have the right idea about the grammar. However, 泣いていた simply sounds more natural. – tcallred Aug 16 '17 at 20:34
  • @T.Allred Thanks I agree, just wanted to make sure I wasn't far off from what it translates to – Joshua Detwiler Aug 16 '17 at 23:46
  • As there are many examples in the answers, the part of "~泣き" becomes a compound noun, so it is more easy to understand the crying scene concretely by the expression with "~泣きする" than "泣いている", because you can express how he/she cries in the part "~". – mackygoo Aug 17 '17 at 4:35
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    Is there perhaps another one about when the form of a godan verb, like 泣き, is considered a noun by itself? -- How about this post by @naruto? japanese.stackexchange.com/a/32311/9831 – Chocolate Aug 18 '17 at 23:35
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You're right that 泣いていた is the informal past continuous conjugation ("I was crying"), and that していた is the informal past continuous form of する as well.

And you're also right that 泣き is the noun form of the verb 泣く, derived from its continuative form (連用形):

なき【泣き】〘名〙
泣くこと。また、泣くほどつらいこと。「泣きを入れる(=泣いて頼む)」「泣きを見る(=泣くほどつらい目に合う)」...
(明鏡国語辞典)

It's marked as just〘名〙, not as 〘名・自サ変〙. It means 泣き is a noun, but cannot be used as a する-verb. So you cannot say 泣きする, 泣きした, or 泣きしていた.

Compound nouns with ~泣き, such as うれし泣き, 男泣き, うそ泣き, 大泣き, 悔し泣き, 夜泣き, すすり泣き, しのび泣き etc. are サ変 verbs and can be used as a する-verb, as in うれし泣きする, 男泣きする, うそ泣きする etc.

As an aside, same goes for many other verbs. You can say:
[大笑]{おおわら}いする, but not 笑いする,
[早歩]{はやある}きする, but not 歩きする,
[小走]{こばし}りする, but not [走]{はし}りする,
[早食い]{はやぐ}する, but not [食]{く}いする,
[夜逃]{よに}げする, but not 逃げする,
[二度寝]{にどね}する, but not 寝する,
etc...

  • Would adding を to those listed expressions work? Because I have a feeling 走りをする would pass as correct, but not necessarily others. And I'm not sure why. – macraf Aug 17 '17 at 4:22
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    @macraf 確かに、他の動詞で「食いをする」「笑いをする」「寝をする」などは言わない感じがしますね。(「笑いしない」「歩きしない」とかは言いますけどね。)「走りをする」を「走る」の意味で使うことはないと思います。ただ、特に関西弁で、体育の授業などで「走りをする」というふうに言っていた覚えがあります。これは「『走り』という種目をやる」みたいな意味だと思います。あと、「この車は素晴らしい走りをする」(≂素晴らしい走り方をする)のような使い方はあると思います。 – Chocolate Aug 17 '17 at 4:46
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    Now I have a feeling this comment deserves a separate question. Will let you know. – macraf Aug 17 '17 at 4:55
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    Thanks for going above and beyond the intent of the question, I appreciate the depth of your answer! – Joshua Detwiler Aug 18 '17 at 21:38
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"was crying" for both 泣いていた and 泣きしていた.

the first is the informal past continuous conjugation, and the second one is made up of two words. I see 泣き, taken from 泣く, since it's a 五段ごだん verb, and I also see していた as the informal past continuous form of する.

So, what I told him was that the first is "was crying" and the second is "was having tears", though they could both be used as "was crying".

泣いていた is correct and means "was crying", but we don't consider 泣き alone as a noun, so, I guess it's not much the logic or grammar, but simply we don't say 泣きしていた.

But you can say 夜泣{よな}きしていた, or すすり泣きしていた, or もらい泣きしていた, or etc. Your "was having tears" could be 涙{なみだ}していた. All of these are [a noun + していた].

していた is not really formal nor informal, but just the standard form to express the state or continuation in the past.

  • Thank you, that makes sense that since 涙 is the noun, 泣き isn't really grammatical. I'll let the guy know I made a mistake :) – Joshua Detwiler Aug 17 '17 at 2:03
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    By the way, a few weeks ago I saw this about state and continuation, and read it thoroughly. Is there perhaps another one about when the form of a godan verb, like 泣き, is considered a noun by itself? – Joshua Detwiler Aug 18 '17 at 20:12
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    I'm afraid I don't know what threads are there, but as far as what I can think of now, for example, 動きがある is often used and we are very much familiar with it, also 動きをしている works fine, well, when we use them in right context, but we don't say 泣きがある or 泣きをしている. The expressions like 泣きを入れる or 泣きを見る are not used by everyone; they sound like they came from a certain type of old literature or performing arts that I'm personally not familiar with. – karlalou Aug 18 '17 at 21:41

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