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For example, when someone is looking for something and sees it, they will say "あった”. I understand that the literal translation of あった is just the past tense of ある and means something like "existed". My question is how does this meaning become "found it" i.e. what's the logic behind saying "something existed" when looking for something and then finding it.

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    Please read this external article, too: Another Function of the Ta-form: Discovery and Recall
    – naruto
    Feb 17 at 11:39
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    Also, consider usage in English -- folks sometimes also say, "It was here!", where "here" is just wherever they happen to be at the moment. Japanese is a so-called "pro-drop language", where pronouns like "it" or "here" are omitted so long as the context is understood (or at least understandable). So in this case, "it was here" aligns perfectly with 「あった」. Feb 17 at 18:31

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