I thought I'd understood the differences until I actually had to use them more often to express myself better. Since this is an old, recurring grammar topic, I'll just lay out all possible forms I can think of below.



I am studying (as of now)


I had been studying / had studied (until a certain point in time in the past)


I have studied / have been studying (until now, and will continue to do so until a certain point in the future)


I have studied / have been studying (until now)


I have been studying (until now, whether I will continue or not is not specified)


I had been studying (until a certain point in time in the past)


  1. If my understanding is correct, some of them seem to overlap.
  2. Do Japanese people nitpick about the different usages laid out above? (Regardless of how conscious this process is.)


1 Answer 1


You are right except 勉強してくる. It says nothing about the past or the present time, but means "will study there and come back here" or "will have studied by then".

As for the difference between 勉強してきた and …してきている, they describe the same situation, however, the latter puts focus on the current state of the object rather than the actions it has accumulated. So, for example, 殺してきた is likely to continue to a story that tells how unforgibable the deed is, while 殺してきている how dangerous the agent is.

  • Thank you for the answer! My understanding about てくる comes from this post, but I may have misunderstood the explanation there. As for 殺してきてる and 殺してきている, do you mean that in the former, the killer had murdered until now, whereas in the latter, the killer will continue to do so?
    – Yeti Ape
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:23
  • it's not really an "until now" situation with てくる and its conjugated forms. It's more describing a future event (with てくる) or a recent past event (with てきた) or an ongoing movement (toward the speaker) that was preceded by some event (with してきている) .... the くる in these forms simply means "come" and is meant to say only that whatever the action was, the person doing it has arrived, or will arrive where the speaker is, after having done the action. Sep 21, 2018 at 21:32
  • きてる is just a contraction of きている. They are identical. Since it doesn't refer to the future, it's unknown if it continues or not.
    – user4092
    Sep 21, 2018 at 21:33
  • @ericfromabeno Thank you for your explanation, but I think I already understand what てくる means when it's about action instead of time. I struggle a lot when time is involved in the grammar. user4092 My mistake. I meant to say 殺してきた and 殺してきている。I'm really sorry for the blunder. Incidentally, my language exchange partner kept correcting my use of てくる and the works today, so it is definitely something that registers.
    – Yeti Ape
    Sep 22, 2018 at 12:31
  • 1
    @YetiApe てくる doesn't stand for time per se. It's just the same as the original form of the verb in that regard. As a depiction of a matter of fact, てくる is the same as the form without it. It's just more detailed.
    – user4092
    Sep 22, 2018 at 16:02

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