I have read this sentence in my book :


  • Why isn't the present continuous used (起きています) since it is obviously a habit for Yamada-san to wake up at 6 every morning?

  • Is it because we already have 毎朝 in the sentence? But then, would it mean that the -ます form is prefered over the -ています form if the meaning of a sentence is clear enough?

  • Then, does it sound weird to use the present continuous in that kind of sentences?

  • If my assumption is wrong, what is the difference between this sentence and the same one with -ています form?

To go further…

Could this sentence be translated to future as:

Mr Yamada will get up at 6 every morning.

Does it depend only on context or would we need to add some words to make sure we understand it as future tense?


The -ています form can also be used to express a customary and repeated action that takes place through a certain period of time.


ぎんこうにつとめています。 I work in a bank.

あねは英語{えいご}の先生{せんせい}をしています。 My sister is an English teacher.

  • This thread is releated but doesn't fully answer my question.
    – CCR
    Sep 16, 2018 at 9:39

3 Answers 3


Using ている form for habitual actions, compared with the one without it, implies that the speaker is to some extent conscious of period that the habitual action continues for.

In other words, 山田さんは毎朝6時に起きている implies that the speaker is conscious that Yamada wouldn't necessarily get up at 6 in past, and won't necessarily keep his habit forever.

So, the reason why it doesn't use ている form is that the speaker is not particularly conscious of sense of period as mentioned above.

In this regard, it sounds too fatal to apply permanent action, namely, habitual one without ている to what's generally introduced as examples of habitual actions in textbooks e.g. 学校へ通っている or 店で働いている.

When you consider an example like 人は空気を吸う, you won't really wonder why it's not ている, will you? 毎朝起きる is kinda in-between, but at least, it's not unnatural to use permanent action.

  • 1
    From your description it sounds like the two sentence would translate best as 山田さんは毎朝6時に起きます。= "Yamada gets up at 6 every morning. 山田さんは毎朝6時に起きています。= "Yamada has been getting up at 6 every morning.". Would you agree? Sep 16, 2018 at 17:00
  • 1
    If you think about it, this works the same way in English. "I've been getting up at 6" vs "I get up at 6."
    – mamster
    Sep 16, 2018 at 21:15
  • Yes. I thought it would be "Yamada is getting up at 6 these days" with my poor English skill, though. Although ている is more dominant in Japanse than the English counterpart is in English, basic idea is the same.
    – user4092
    Sep 17, 2018 at 6:02
  • From your answer, at first, I understood that ている form is not used because the speaker doesn't know if it is a customary action or not. Then that using the plain form makes a sentence sound more of a "permanent action" (vs "temporary custom"). Then I understood that 毎朝起きる uses the plain form because it's permanent, you always wake up in the morning. But if you add 6時 it makes it too "fatal" to apply permanent action isn't it? In the end, I still don't understand why "temporary custom" with ている is not used here…
    – CCR
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:42
  • I added ressources to my question. Wasabi-jpn.com has almost exactly the same example as I do and says "Customary actions can actually be expressed by both the plain form and the te-form + いる. The above examples have the same meaning […]. The difference of the nuance is still controversial among linguists."
    – CCR
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:58

I wanted to edit user4092's answer, but it was too drastic. I've been advised by a moderator to make it a separate answer as it introduces new terminology.

ている form - Temporary custom

Using ている form for customary actions, compared with just the plain form, implies that the speaker is, to some extent, conscious of a period of time that the customary action continues for.


In other words, the above sentence implies that the speaker is conscious that Yamada wouldn't necessarily get up at 6 in past, and won't necessarily keep his habit forever. He wakes up at 6 "these days", it is a temporary custom.

So, the reason why it doesn't use ている form is that the speaker is not particularly conscious of a sense of time as mentioned above, or doesn't want to imply one.

Plain form - "Permanent" custom

In this regard, it sounds too fatal to apply the plain form (without ている) as in a permanent action to common examples of habitual actions in textbooks such as:

学校{がっこう}へ[通]{かよ}っている。 I go to school.

店{みせ}で[働]{はたら}いている。 I work in a shop.

Consider an example like this one:

人{ひと}は空気{くうき}を[吸]{す}う。 Humans breathe air.

You don't wonder why ている form is not used, do you? Because it's not a temporary custom, but a permanent one.

毎朝起きる is kinda in-between. It's not unnatural to use permanent action but both forms are fine.

Source: Wasabi-jpn.com on "Customary Actions"


According to "A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", page 155:

いる: Someone or something is doing something he or it started some time ago, or is in a state created by an action he or it took some time ago.

Examples paraphrased from the book:

He is drinking sake.

He is talking.

He is eating.

If Verb-て is a verb indicating a momentary action which cannot be repeated, Verb-て expresses the idea that something happened to X and X maintains the state which was created by that event.


Mr. Yamada is awake. (Mr. Yamada woke up some time ago and still awake now)

リンゴは腐{くさ}っている。 (Example paraphrased from the book)
The apple is rotten. (the apple rotted some time ago, and is still rotten now)

Verb-ている also expresses a habitual action (...) Example:

Mr. Yamada runs 4 km every day.

But in the case of punctual verbs, I believe the meaning above takes precedence.

  • 1
    – chocolate
    Oct 4, 2018 at 7:56

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