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I hope someone here can help me with a question that I have had for ages, but can't find an answer to. When I ask my Japanese friends I just get a blank look! In sentences where one is talking about elapsed time for example:

彼女に最後に会ってから10年になります。 It is 10 years since I last saw her.

All the examples I find in the dictionary use になります、not なりました。The 'becoming 10 years' has already occurred, it is in the past, so why isn't it expressed using the past tense? I find it particularly confusing, because if I used a different verb to express the passing of time, then it would be past tense, e.g.

この前彼に会ってから5年がたちました。 It's been five years since I last saw him.

This maybe one of this things that I just have to accept as 'that is how Japanese works', but if there is some sort of logical explanation, I would be very glad to hear it. よろしくお願いします。

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  • it might help to think like this: “has been” is the present perfect in english. since japanese only has a past and nonpast tense (‘ish) the nonpast form or the dictionary form is sometimes found where in english we use the perfect. なりました could have the force of “it had been”. but it’s perhaps best to realize that these forms are less about tense than aspect (hence the ‘ish above)
    – A.Ellett
    Dec 8 '20 at 5:14
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I think it is because it refers to this year or this day. If it refers to the past year or day, it is 昨日で彼女に最後に会ってから10年になりました.

As for この前彼に会ってから5年がたちました, it is the same, and 最後に is more natural. If it refers to this day, both (今日で)最後に彼に会ってから5年がたちました and (今日で)最後に彼に会ってから5年がたちます are used.

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「〇〇になります」and 「〇〇となります」are expressions used to describe the state of affairs. It does not mean "it will become 〇〇".

In your own example, your english translation said:

It is 10 years since I last saw her.

Why did you say "is" and not "was"?

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  • Thank you Hasen - that is an insightful comment. I think I was distracted by the common definition of 'naru' as a verb of change. But thinking of it as a stative verb (at least in this case) is probably far more useful. You are right, we say 'is/am' not 'was/were'. I am 40 years old - even though the becoming 40 has already occurred and is in the past. I think I have had a eureka moment. Many thanks. Dec 9 '20 at 5:27

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