I'm on Chapter 9 in Genki I and there's a paragraph that says:

Note that in Japanese, the tense of the original utterance is preserved when reported. If you report somebody's utterance in which present tense is used, you must also use the present tense inside the quote. So if your friend said 今、日本語を勉強しています, using the present tense the report is

Sue said that she was studying Japanese.

Isn't the translated text contradicting what it says?

Shouldn't it translate to

Sue said that she is studying Japanese. (As in, Sue, in the past at the moment she was talking to me, had said she is currently studying Japanese).

What should I understand from this paragraph?

1 Answer 1


That's the difference Genki is trying to explain: in English, you would say "Sue said she was studying Japanese", because she was studying it when she said that sentence (as for now? Maybe she stopped), while in Japanese you have to keep the original tense, so if Sue said 「勉強している」 you have to quote 「勉強している」.

I think the literal translation of the Japanese sentence would be "Sue said, 'I'm studying Japanese'" (as you could do in English, too), since the quotative 「と」 does that, it quotes, but in English it's more usual to use indirect quotation, so Genki is providing the translation people would usually say in English.

  • Thanks! So instead if Sue said she was studying Japanese, the verb should be: 勉強しだと言っていました.? (just making sure I understand the conjugation as well)
    – user36838
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 14:22
  • 1
    「勉強していた」: the past form is 「た」, not 「だ」 (which is the casual form of the copula 「です」); moreover, since she was studying (as opposed to "she studied") you have to use the 「ている」 form, so 勉強する > 勉強している > 勉強していた.
    – Mauro
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 15:31

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