My grammar book says: "V-ている is used more than V-る, but the pattern V-るうちに is sometimes used." Is there a difference in meaning or style between the two? When are they not interchangeable?

最初は美味しいが、{食べる/食べている} うちに飽きてくる。

すべての少年が一度は胸に懐き、だが現実の非情さを {知る/知っている} うちに諦め、捨てていく幼稚な理想。


Very hard question.

For the first example, {食べる/食べている} うちに飽きてくる sounds exactly the same to me, especially when you intend to mean "you get bored of it after a while (in a single event of eating that food)". If you want to say that "you get bored of it when you eat it too much (repeatedly eating the food multiple times in your life)", I think the former fits better, since the latter has a stronger emphasis on the "while eating" aspect.

For the second example, I think only the first one works. 現実の非情さを知るうちに諦め... It is still possible to say 現実の非情さを知っていうちに諦め... which sounds a bit more natural to me than the former. But the difference is very subtle.

  • When is it ungrammatical/unnatural to use V-ている?
    – seesta
    Nov 30 '20 at 9:50
  • 知る/知っている is bit of a special case, since "knowing something new for a first time" and "maintaining the status of knowing something for a period of time" is something different, and the above two Japanese expressions point to those different things. On the other hand, for normal verbs, "doing something" and "doing something for a while" is almost equivalent (in many cases, I guess), and it's usually OK to just use V-ている. So it's hard to come up with a situation when it's unnatural to use V-ている other than the 知っているうちに... example. Dec 14 '20 at 5:41
  • If you allow to get rid of the "うちに" part, I can come up with examples. Essentially the same ("Someone who is doing research") 研究している人 (Someone who's doing research) 研究する人 (Someone who's doing research) Quite different 結婚している人 (Someone who's married) 結婚する人 (Someone who's going to get married) 彼は結婚するよ/結婚します (He's going to get married) 彼は結婚しているよ/結婚しています (He's married) Dec 14 '20 at 5:53

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