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So I came across this sentence in a textbook:

家の近くで殺人事件が起きて1か月経つが、いまだに犯人は見つかっていない。

I think the sentence is supposed to mean 'Since the murder occurred near my house, a month has passed, but the criminal has yet to been found.'.

Same for the following sentence:

彼がここへ来てから一年が経つ。(Which I interpret as 'a year has passed since he came here'.)

The thing I'm getting stuck on is, as 経つ is a verb in its non-past form describing the 'passing of time', doesn't it convey the meaning of a habit/tendency or future passing of time? Intuitively I would have guessed 経った(passed) to be used instead of 経つ in the sentence.

Also, is the verb 経つ durative (referring to the action of the passing of time), or is it a punctual verb (referring to the instant a specified window of time has passed if that makes sense). If it's a punctual verb, 経っている would be more appropriate right?

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I don't have very grammatical explanations, but let's focus on the second sentence.

Suppose he arrived 10 July 2020. Today it is 10 July 2021.

Then '彼がここへ来てから一年が経つ' can be used yesterday (09 July) or today or tomorrow (11 July). Or in past (say a week ago) or in future (a week later).

'..経った/経っている' on the other hand can be used today or after, not yesterday. (I mean, strictly speaking the sentence '彼がここへ来て一年が経った/経っている' is false on 09 July 2021)

In English, I believe 'it's been a year since' and 'it is a year since' are both acceptable (the latter being probably less formal). I guess 'it is a year since he came here' is not (particularly) considered to be false on 09 July 2021 in the above setting while 'it's been a year...' is technically false on that day. I thought the difference 経つ/経った might be similar.

If the last paragraph is correct, then the simple explanation would be that the present tense includes some time in near-past and in near-future in both English and Japanese.

Edit: some more comments

Of course, 経った/経っている can be used in both of your examples, and that might be more precise. But the present tense here just refers to a fuzzy time period around now.

There is also something to do with the length of time concerned.

Suppose you poured hot water into cup noodle and are waiting for 3 mins. Then,

  • '3分経つ' can be used only slightly before 2'59''

  • '3分経った' is used after 3'00''.

This is probably because the length of time is too short to accommodate the past and future.

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  • Thank you for your answer! Sorry I'm just a little confused and need a little more clarification. If 経つ means 'passes' or 'will pass', then won't using 経つ after 10 July 2021 be incorrect since the time has already passed? After 10 July, then instead of 経つ、経った or 経っている would be used (I understand your third paragraph). I guess my question is mainly how 経つ can be used to refer to time that has already passed (as in your second paragraph) if that makes sense.
    – rumi2580
    Jul 10, 2021 at 6:25
  • At least as far as '経つ' is concerned, the present tense can refer to the event in the past.
    – sundowner
    Jul 10, 2021 at 8:54
  • Ah I see! Looks like it's something I'll have to get used to :) In that case, how do you differentiate when to use 経つ or 経った to refer to an event/time that has passed? (I take it that the ている forms are just describing the state after the passing of the event/time) Thank you!
    – rumi2580
    Jul 10, 2021 at 9:08
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    Very difficult. For the first sentence of your question, I think use of 経った does not change the meaning at all. For the second sentence, '...一年たつ' sounds like more of a sentence in a novel or at least it is describing some background situation and anticipates some further description about him. Also I have the impression that 経っている/経った would be more usual in speech. (see also the edit in the answer).
    – sundowner
    Jul 10, 2021 at 9:26
  • Ahhh I see now, thank you so much! The edit in the answer plus your clarifications really helped :D
    – rumi2580
    Jul 10, 2021 at 9:34

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