Can someone help me understand if the difference in use between the form ます and the form て in this kind of sentence? 魚が泳いでいます。 (It's the same as when we say in English that we're doing something?) 魚が泳ぎます。
(It's like attesting a fact?)

  • 1
    @RJ Rossas, not knowing your Japanese level, the answer from mamster was brilliant, but at least I am a living example of a person to whom your simple rule of swim vs. swimming is enough and gets you through at least JLPT N1 (if you are in to those). So, がんばって!
    – Tuomo
    Jun 25 '19 at 5:32
  • Ha! I do tend to go on...
    – mamster
    Jun 25 '19 at 13:39

First off, the "て form" in Japanese refers to just the form 泳いで, or the form of the verb ending in て or で。When you write a verb like 泳いでいます, that's called te-iru/te-imasu form or sometimes "progressive form," although that can be misleading.

Your understanding is nearly correct. 魚が泳いでいます means "The fish is swimming." As in, right now, a particular fish is swimming.

魚が泳ぎます is a little trickier. It doesn't mean "Fish swim" as a general property of fish. That would be:


The は particle is used for attesting a well-known fact.

魚が泳ぎます most likely means one of these two things, and you'd need context to determine which one:

  1. The fish will swim.
  2. It's the answer to the question 何が泳ぎますか。What swims? Fish swim.

Finally, the te-imasu form can be used for a habitual action, although it doesn't make sense in this case. But I could say 最近泳いでいます, meaning that I've been going swimming lately.

  • So, if I have to describe something, like a action or a situation that's happening right now, or something that occurred with me in the past it's better to use the "て form"?
    – RJ Rossas
    Jun 26 '19 at 4:27
  • It really depends. Something that happened in the past could be described with a variety of conjugations depending on the context. Something happening right now, however, will almost always be ている form.
    – mamster
    Jun 26 '19 at 4:48

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