This question is on page 41 of N4 Shin Kanzen:

日本に来る前には海を見たことが (a. ありません b. ありませんでした)。日本にきて、はじめてみました。

I answered A. I thought in ことがある the common mistake is making it a past form ありました so I thought ありませんでした is not allowed. Vta is also past...

Why is B the correct answer? What is the difference in the sentence meaning between a and b --- is it "have" and "had" in English?


1 Answer 1


The sentence focuses on a specific span of time, namely the time that runs up to the speaker’s arrival in Japan, and also contrasts it, by は, with the time that follows. In addition, the second sentence specifically states the speaker did see the sea after they came to Japan. Then, it would be much more natural to describe their earlier lack of experience as a past state using the past tense ありませんでした.

In the examples in the linked question, the speaker did experience something during a time vaguely referred to as “earlier” (以前) or more specifically before some event happened in the past (e.g. 仕事で大阪に引っ越す前). Either way, this necessarily means they do have the experience in the current state, too. This reduces the difference between the two tenses to that of emphasis as the accepted answer suggests.

The two tenses are not so interchangeable in your example because of the contrast between the past and current states.

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