I've heard this:

ありがとう お腹すいてたんだ

Why "-te" form? And is て there at all? It looks to me ungrammatical.

Why not this?

ありがとう お腹すいたんだ


~てた is an extremely common casual contraction of the past continuous ~ていた (in the same way that the present continuous ~ている is commonly contracted to ~てる).

So the difference between お腹がすいた and お腹がすいてた is the same as the difference between their present-tense equivalents お腹がすく and お腹がすいている. The former means "I become/became hungry" and the latter means "I am/was hungry".

In practice, お腹すいたんだ would usually be taken as meaning "I'm starting to get hungry right now" (because the plain past tense of a verb that indicates a change in state is commonly used to indicate that that change has just occurred), whereas お腹すいてたんだ indicates that the speaker has been hungry for a little while.

  • I don't agree with your last sentence, it should be that the speaker was hungry, not that the speaker has been (and is still) hungry. – bjorn Oct 20 '17 at 15:33
  • 1
    Well, I was thinking specifically in the context of the question, where it's preceded by ありがとう, and so presumably being spoken just after the speaker has just been given some food. So presumably the speaker is either still hungry or has only just stopped being hungry in this case. But yes, in a different context お腹すいてた could certainly refer to a past hunger that's completely removed from the present. – Ben Roffey Oct 20 '17 at 17:08

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