Looking at past questions I am still confused about the answers given:

  1. The answer to this post suggests that 寝る is a continuation of some state.

Yesterday I didn't sleep at all.

Instead of

Yesterday I didn't sleep at all.

  1. The answer to this post suggests that 寝る is an active verb

寝てろ Keep sleeping (keep doing the action of sleeping)

I want to confirm my understanding of active vs stative verbs:


  • 書いている - (I) am writing [present progressive]

  • 書いていない - (I) am not writing [negative present progressive]

  • 書いていた - (I) was writing [past progressive]

  • 書いていなかった - (I) was not writing [negative past progressive]


  • 帰っている - (I) have (already) came home [present progressive]

  • 帰っていない - (I) I have not come home (but I might be in the middle of coming home) OR I didn't come home. (also in the past?) [negative present progressive]

  • 帰っていた - (I) I had come home (sometime in the past I came home) [past progressive]

  • 帰っていなかった (I) had not come home (sometime in the past I didn't come home) [negative past progressive]

I especially have trouble differentiating (for stative verbs) between 帰っていない and 帰っていなかった。

Because of that I also cant understand why 昨日も全然寝てない。 is not 昨日も全然寝てなかった。If it was a stative verb.

If 寝る is an active verb in this scenario it also wouldn't make sense at all because I would translate it as "yesterday I am not sleeping".

This post may be related but I only see examples where it is used as an answer to a question.


2 Answers 2


寝る works as both. See the example of 溶ける in this answer. 寝ている/寝てる can mean both "is sleeping" (present progressive) and "have slept" (present perfect). 寝ていた/寝てた can mean both "was sleeping" (past progressive) and "had slept" (past perfect). It depends on the context.

When you talk about something in the past, the difference between 寝た and 寝ている can be sometimes blurry, and they are often interchangeable. For instance, if someone in front of you looks sleepy, you can say both "昨日あまり寝てないの?" and "昨日あまり寝なかったの?". But 寝ている tends to be used in relation to the current situation, so 寝てないの may be chosen more often in this case. Likewise, before a boring but important event, you would usually choose "昨日ちゃんと寝てる?" rather than "昨日ちゃんと寝た?" See also: Why is a verb in the past (た形) contradicted with ~ていない?

Imperative 寝て(い)ろ always has a progressive meaning, because making a command about something in the past does not make sense (You cannot say "Have slept!" in English, either.)

Past perfect 寝て(い)なかった ("had slept") is relatively uncommon, but it's used when you talk about it in relation to another event in the past.

  • 昨日よく寝ていなかったので今朝の試験に落ちた。
    I failed the examination in this morning because I had not slept well."
  • 夫は家に帰っている。
    My husband has arrived home. (He is at home now)
  • 私が家に帰ったとき、夫ももう帰っていた。
    When I arrived home, my husband had arrived home, too. (Where he is now is not important)

EDIT: Here is the basic difference between present and past perfective aspect. The eye icon indicates what you are describing. Past perfective aspect describes a continuation of state until some point of interest in the past; its current status is not important. 寝ていた works just like this, too, but it can also mean progressive "was sleeping".

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  • Is this supposed to be perfective or perfect?
    – jukbot
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 13:22

I escpecially have trouble differentiating (for stative verbs) between 帰っていない and 帰っていなかった。

I'll answer your question because the difference between the two expressions is obvious.

Assuming that the subject is "he", 帰っていない means "He has not come home and he is not at home now".

Note: added the following three lines
Linguistically, 帰っていなかった is used as an expression in which the tense of 帰っていない is shifted one step to the past, but sometimes it is used with the nuance that the state of 帰っていなかった was contrary to the expectation. In this case it is used as follows:
帰っていなかった implies that "帰っていると思ったが帰っていなかった I expected that he had come home but he hadn't. I don't know if he is at home now".

By the way, we usually say 帰ってない instead of 帰っていない.


As 帰っている has meaning of both "having already come home" and present progressive form with "being coming home", it is troublesome to distinguish them even Japanese. Therefore, in the case of present progressive form, we generally say that "帰っているところです/だ" instead of "帰っている".

For example, "今{いま}帰っているところだ。電車{でんしゃ}の中{なか}だよ。もうすぐ帰{かえ}るから待{ま}っていてね。"

  • 1
    「帰っていなかった」 says nothing about the speaker's expectation, or about the their current knowledge as to whether the person is at home or not. Do you really mean to say 「私が家に帰ったとき、彼はまだ帰っていなかった。」, for instance, implies that the speaker thought he would have returned and that, at the the moment of speaking, they don't know whether he is at home? 「今日もやっぱり彼は帰っていなかった。」「今は帰ってるけど、私が帰ったときには彼はまだ帰っていなかった。」「私が帰ったとき彼はまだ帰っていなかったし、今もまだ帰っていない。」 Do these sentences sound incoherent to you?
    – goldbrick
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 12:11

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