Intransitive verbs describe a change that people/things undergo from my understanding and do not take a direct object. I've also read that the te-form of intransitive verbs with いる describe a state that holds after said change occurs.

E.g., 店が開く (the store opens) ---> 店が開いている (the store opens and remains open)

However, the verb 泣く'to cry' is intransitive, yet 泣いている apparently describes the continuous action of crying (instead of a state)?

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    How do you understand 歩いている and 走っている?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 8:41
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    @aguijonazo in the same way, now that I think about it! Upon considering further, would it be correct to think that in such cases, people or things enters 'a state of the verb' (e.g., a state of crying) and is remaining in that state? Hence why it is describing both a state and the result of a change? Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 8:47
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    No, it’s much simpler. Transitive or intransitive, the -ている form may describe a continuous action if the verb is an action verb. 歩く, 走る, 泣く are among them.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 10:18
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    Thanks @aguijonazo, managed to wrap my head around it finally! I've not had to think about these concepts until actively trying to learn a new language so I appreciate the help :) Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 10:30
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    @JansthcirlU: I said "may" because flapjackkks was thinking intransitive verbs had to somehow describe a resulting state and unnecessarily complicating the problem. Read the earlier exchange. Of course, 泣いている could mean other things too (in standard Japanese) but that's not what flapjackkks was asking.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented May 1, 2021 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


IMHO, this really has nothing to do with transitive vs intransitive verbs at all. In my view there is actually a completely separate conceptual distinction between verbs in Japanese, which you need to look at instead. There are:

  • Verbs that describe some activity occurring (which has duration)
  • Verbs that describe a change from one state to another

The ている-form really implies different things depending on which of these two categories of verbs you're dealing with. For the first type of verbs, the action can start, then continue for a while, then stop, so it's possible to be "in the middle of" doing that action at some point in time, so for these verbs, ている indicates you are in the middle of doing that action, and is basically equivalent to the present progressive form in English ("is (verb)ing").

However, state-change verbs in Japanese are basically "instantaneous". That means, they don't have a duration, and you can't really ever be "in the middle" of doing them (you either haven't done it yet, or it's already been completed). Therefore, ている can't mean you're in the middle of it, because that makes no sense, so what it means for these verbs is you are "presently in the state that results from having done (verb)". In English, this often corresponds to the present perfect form ("has (verb)ed").

How do you tell what kind of verb you're working with? Well, in many cases it's fairly obvious. In cases where it isn't, you should consider whether the subject is in a distinctly different state after the verb has finished than they were before it started. If they are, then it's probably a state-change verb. If they aren't, then it's probably a normal activity verb.

So in this case, 開く is clearly a state-change verb (it describes the transition from being "closed" to being "open"). On the other hand, with 泣く, after you've finished crying, are you in a different state than you were before you started crying? Not really. And it's reasonable to think of crying as an activity that can go on for some time, so this is pretty clearly not a state-change verb. It's an activity.

  • 開いている: state-change verb (instantaneous) --> "has opened"
  • 泣いている: activity verb (has duration) --> "is crying"

I've also read that the te-form of intransitive verbs with いる describe a state that holds after said change occurs.

As a native speaker, I can say that this definition is correct but too narrow in scope; the case you raised with 泣いている is perfectly valid.

I would map "ている" to english persent-perfect form, "has been" "have been". A quick check to see if you can use ている would be to add もう2時間も "for two hours" and see if it makes logical sense.

店はもう2時間も開いている The store's been open for TWO HOURS! (to someone complainig that the store's closed and can't go)

彼女はもう2時間も泣いている She's been crying for two hours.

In short, your usage is OK. Don't take the textbook too literally.

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