According to this website (I think it is 初級を教える人のための日本語文法ハンドブック), if a time adverb is used in an adjective clause, you have to use ていた.

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I wonder if the same rule applies to normal verbs without アスペクト

Example 1


What I want to say:

Students who were going to take a test last week arrived late because of the flood.

Does Example 1 make sense?

or it has to be like:

Example 2


2 Answers 2


When you use the non-past (a.k.a present) tense to say something was going to happen, you, as the speaker, is standing at a reference point in the past and looking towards the future from that point. That's what the perspective in relative tense is like. The time expression should also be relative to the same reference point, if not absolute.

For example:



次の週 is not "next week" with no article but "the next week" or "the following week" relative to a past reference point.

Whether 月曜日 is "absolute" is debatable, but it's certainly different from expressions like 昨日 and 先週 as it directly points to a specific date (within what you might call a "reference window" centering around either reference point, though). If the listener doesn't know which Monday, that's another issue.

Time expressions like 昨日 and 先週, on the other hand, are always relative to the time of the utterance. If the time expression refers to the past, you are looking back from that point. The tense of the verb should also be matching this perspective. That means only your second sentence is correct.


But a little problem arises here. What if the students couldn't take the exam? We cannot say 受けた in that case.

Well, you still need to use the past tense, somehow.

For example:



  • So if there are no time expressions, it will become like we can either look back at the past or just stand at the past point looking at the action, so ている and ていた (like the example from the 日本語文法ハンドブック) are both fine. But when there is a time expression in the adjective clause, it narrows down the meaning, so we can only use either ている or ていた. As for the normal verbs, their tenses determine what time expressions to use (受ける+次の週 and 受けた+ 先週). Do I understand it correctly? Wierd question tho. Does this concept apply to adjectives? (先週美味しかったラーメン屋)に行った。or 先週、(美味しいラーメン屋)に行った。Thank you.
    – vincentlin
    May 28, 2022 at 4:42

The same rule applies and only Example 2 is possible. This article seems to be relevant as regards choosing tense in a relative clause.

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