I've been reading linguistics books lately and they've gotten me reexamining things I've learned in Japanese textbooks for foreign learners.

Susumu Kuno's book The Structure of the Japanese Language states that you can use "stativity" to figure out how to interpret the non-past tense form of a verb.

Example: 猫がいる (stative) = (There) IS a cat.

Example 2: 店に行く (non-stative) = (I) WILL go to the store.

He states that stative verbs take the が particle under most circumstances. This makes it sound like all intransitive verbs would be stative.

Therefore: ドアが閉まる (stative?) = The door IS shut. (Not the door will shut)

Am I correct in thinking this?

Textbooks describe intransitive verbs with ている as describing a state that's already resulted and is continuing. Transitive verbs in ている form describe an ongoing action.


ドアを閉めている = I'm shutting the door.

ドアが閉まっている = The door is shut (and staying that way).

**Is this a correct interpretation? How would one say that the door is shutting by itself then (like a progressive action)?

  • 1
    Your explanation seems a little confused -- you describe that Kuno "states that non-stative verbs take the が particle under most circumstances. This makes it sound like all intransitive verbs would be stative." How so? Also, if 閉まる is non-stative, like 行く, then it'd be "The door WILL shut", no? Commented May 8, 2019 at 23:56
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    Oh sorry, I mistyped. Kuno states that stative verbs take が. Thank you for pointing that out I'll edit the post.
    – Fluffer
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


いる is usually used with が for the same reason English "there is" is usually followed by "a(n)" rather than "the"; ~がいる and "there is a(n) ~" are both used to introduce something into the discourse.

But "a(n)" can be used with tons of other verbs. Did your book really say you can distinguish the type of a verb by looking at if it can be used with が? I doubt it. Just because you can say ドアが閉まる in some circumstances doesn't mean 閉まる is a stative verb. 閉まる is an instant state-change verb (aka punctual verb). See: When is Vている the continuation of action and when is it the continuation of state?

As for the last half of your question, I believe you've gotten something wrong. There are many intransitive verbs that describe an ongoing action in teiru-form (e.g., 寝ている) and there are many transitive verbs that describe the continuation of state in teiru form (e.g., 送っている). The intransitive/transitive distinction and the stative/punctual/action distinction are two different things. Please do not mix them.

  • stative intransitive verb: いる, ある
  • stative transitive verb: 要する
  • action intransitive verb: 寝る
  • action transitive verb: 食べる, 読む
  • instant state change intransitive verb: 死ぬ
  • instant state change transitive verb: 送る, 始める
  • Okay, cool makes sense. The book I mentioned is from 1970, and I think the stative idea has been built on since then. I've seen a number of books use the categories that you've descried in your answer.
    – Fluffer
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 4:34

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