In Chapter 3 of Yotsuba-to, Yotsuba wakes up and finds a picture of herself, that Fuuka drew and left there while she was sleeping. Yotsuba exclaims: 「ふーかがよつばかいてくれてた!」

Any natural-sounding English translation would use regular past-tense here: "Fuuka drew this for me!" An English sentence like "Fuuka was drawing this for me!" would sound odd, unless they were inquiring specifically about what Fuuka was doing earlier (which they weren't).

So my question is, what nuance is conveyed by using 「くれて(い)た」 here, instead of 「くれた」? Would 「くれた」 change the meaning at all?

  • Did she say that to someone (to report what she found) or was she talking to herself?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


It is not progressive but perfect aspect. So a translation could be Fuuka has drawn [done the favor of drawing] me(Yotsuba).

Similar examples may help understand.

  • 目が覚めると日がすっかり昇っていた When I woke up, the sun had risen completely.
  • 家に帰ると妻が夕食を用意してくれていた When I came home, my wife had prepared dinner.

The second one can be progressive (my wife was preparing dinner), but for the particular example of Yotsuba&, it refers to the past act of drawing Yotsuba by Fuuka and hence unambiguous.

  • Thank you. Can't believe I forgot about that meaning of ...ていた.
    – Hikonyan
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 0:18
  • @Hikonyan - But if she was talking to herself as opposed to reporting to someone what she found, it would be more natural to understand it as "was drawing" and it does sound a bit weird.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 1:46
  • @aguijonazo She was reporting what she found to someone else. Is that a universal principle, that ていた is less likely to mean the perfect aspect if a person is talking to themselves?
    – Hikonyan
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 2:29
  • 1
    @Hikonyan - If she exclaimed to herself upon finding the drawing, she would have most likely said either 描いてくれた or 描いてくれてる referring to, respectively, a past action or a current state. 描いてくれてた refers to a past state whether it's one in which the action was ongoing or one resulted from an earlier action. Either way it assumes a past reference point which is missing in this scenario. If she was reporting to someone, the reference point of time is when she woke up and found the drawing.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 3:13
  • 1
    @Hikonyan - I didn't quite answer your question. The question is, with no concrete reference point in the past, which of "was drawing" and "had drawn" is less weird. The first interpretation still makes sense, at least, with the implied time frame of "while I was sleeping".
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 8:58

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