So, as far as I'm aware, the ていた ending can have these meanings depending on verb used:

  1. a past continuous action and works pretty similarly to English: (彼女がシャワーを浴びている間僕は勉強していた。)

  2. a past state: (お腹が空いていた)

  3. had been doing something.

Now, these usages are confusing me and is something I've been seeing recently:


This is from a youtube video about new year's resolutions (will link below). I had expected to either find 続けている or 続けてきた here, based on the usages above. It seems like she is still doing her job and it is continuing into the now and future, so to speak. It was translated (and I think definitely correctly) as "well, I just hope I'll be able to continue the job I've been doing up to now".

Similarly, I don't understand an example like this:

前から興味があったからその仕事をやらせてください。(I've been interested in that for a while so please let me do it). Taken from my textbook.

I'm trying to think of this in terms of Japanese and not English but surely the speakers in both sentences are 1. still doing their job now, and 2. still have the interest. So I'm confused. This is not the first time I've seen things like this.

Video: https://youtu.be/7x2NBdoXuLk?t=188

1 Answer 1


This is what I love coming to this forum as a native speaker! Interesting valid observations to expressions that I take for granted, which in turn give me new insights.

Both of those expressions feel completely normal and acceptable to me, but I believe for different reasons.

続けてた is an informal speech form of 続けてきた in this sentence. I don't think 続けていた would be quite appropriate here for the exact reason you mentioned.

前から興味があった is OK, and the past form is chosen simply because the emphasis of the phrase is in the past, that the interest had developed some time ago,and it is "から" that adds the continuity. Think 前は興味があった, which would mean "I used to be interested [but not anymore]"

  • 2
    Wow, great answer, thank you so much! Is '続けてた' really an informal form of '続けてきた'??? I've never seen this mentioned before. If so how do you distinguish between 続けてた (whether it means 続けてきた or just 続けていた).
    – Jay Lean
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 20:41
  • 1
    Great point, now I'm not so sure anymore. I can think of so many other truncation of いた → た, such as 見ていた → 見てた, 着ていた → 着てた, but I can't think of any for きた → た. But at the same time, I'm pretty certain 今まで続けていた仕事を expects a change to follow, such as quitting, and 今まで続けていた仕事をこれからも続ける sounds odd. Commented May 3, 2020 at 21:16

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