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Past taken as Present

healer

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How do things happen at present in terms of English language but treated as in the past in terms of Japanese language?

I would like to know under what circumstances this syntax happen so that I could make no mistake while describing similar situations.
For example:
疲れました I am tired.
時間が少なくなった There is not much time left.
お腹空いたよ I am hungry.

Does this mean that Japanese people never say 疲れる or 疲れている for being tired?

How would one say in Japanese then for the same things in the past that the three example sentences describe?
For example:
I was tired.
There was not much time left.
I was hungry.
 

Julie.chan

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Well, first of all, "tired" does indeed come from the past-tense of "to tire", so that example is incorrect; it's in fact past-tense in English as well, but it's just morphed from a verb into an adjective.

For the others, it's simply that the Japanese constructions are made differently.

I don't think the ~ている forms are never used, in fact I'm pretty sure I've heard them before. Someone more advanced than I am can correct me if I'm wrong. I also think that's the answer to your question about putting these into past-tense:

疲れていた。
お腹が空いていた。

時間が少なくなった is not an expression I'm familiar with, so I can't answer with regard to that one specifically. The best way I know to say "There was not much time left" is あまり時間がなかった。 I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but if there is I'm sure someone will say so.
 

jt_

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Julie.chan's response is pretty much on point, but I just thought I'd follow up, as this is actually a vitally important concept that's one of the keys to really understanding Japanese grammar.

How do things happen at present in terms of English language but treated as in the past in terms of Japanese language?
The underlying answer to your question lies in a fundamental point (one that, unfortunately, some textbooks and learning resources gloss over): namely, that "past" and "present" tense as we know them in English do not actually exist in Japanese.

Japanese has two verb tenses: perfect (what you're thinking of "past") and imperfect (which most native English speakers see as "present" or "future"). So what's the difference? Where past, present, and future tense focus on where the action takes place on a timeline, perfect and imperfect tenses describe only one thing: whether or not the action has been completed (perfect) or not completed (imperfect) relative to a certain point in time.

That's why 疲れた and お腹空いた mean "I'm tired" and "I'm hungry", respectively, and not "I was tired" and "I was hungry". The perfect tense doesn't mean that the actions took place in the past, it indicates that the act of becoming tired or one's stomach emptying are complete.

Note that it's also possible to say 疲れている or お腹空いている. In general, 疲れた and お腹空いた are exclamations made in the moment (i.e. when it hits the speaker that they're tired or hungry) whereas 疲れている and お腹空いている would be used if the speaker has been aware of the situation for a while. 「今日は疲れているから、早めに帰ろうかな」「めちゃくちゃお腹空いているから、がっつり食べられるお店がいい」or the like.

Note that you can also say something like 「ああ~、疲れる!」 if you're commenting on a tiring action or situation. The nuance here wouldn't be "I'm tired" but rather "Man, (doing this) really tires you out." Also, like Julie.chan said, 疲れていた or お腹空いていた are also commonly used to mean "I was tired" or "I was hungry" (at a certain point in time in the past).

This idea of perfect/imperfect (complete/incomplete), if you can wrap your mind around it, will also help you grasp other constructs where it looks like tenses are functioning differently in Japanese than they would in English. In English we can say things like "Ken said he was going to the party" (even if the party itself hasn't happened yet). In Japanese this, would have to be ケンさんは、パーティーに行くって言っていました, never 行ったと言ってました, as the latter would suggest that at the time in question, the act of going was already complete (i.e. "Ken said he had gone to the party.")

It also works the other way. For example:

赤いセーターを着た男が来たら、教えてください。
If a man wearing a red sweater shows up, let me know.

スパイスをふんだんに使った料理をお出しします。
I'll serve a dish made using an abundant amount of spices.

In these cases, the man has not showed up yet, nor has the food been prepared. But when the man does show up, he will have already completed the act of putting on the sweater, and when the food is served, the spices will already have been used.

This might be a lot to take in at once, but I encourage you to keep it in the back of your mind when analyzing Japanese verb constructions. Breaking out of the English-influenced past/present/future tense mindset and internalizing the idea of complete or incomplete actions will go a long way to helping a lot of Japanese grammar to "click" for you.
 
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healer

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Thanks for the input, Julie.chan.

Yes that's correct. "I'm tired" sort of means "I've been tired out", the verb "tire" in passive voice.

疲れる is a intransitive verb. So 疲れました to me means someone got tired literally, so are なる and 空く.

Both 疲れていた and お腹が空いていた are past continuous tense to me in terms of English language.

By deduction without understanding why in order to get by, I would just have to remember simple past tense in Japanese is present tense in English and past continuous tense in Japanese is past tense in English.

However one important thing I need to know is what verbs this rule or mode applies, all intransitive verbs?
 

healer

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人生絶賛迷走中-san, thanks for your explanation. I never came across the same in any textbook of Japanese language. I've learnt a lot.

You explained very clearly about 疲れた and お腹空いた as well as 疲れている and お腹空いている. Does this concept apply to all verbs?

By the way I guess 「ああ~、疲れる!」 could also mean "It's tiring". Am I right?

What about 時間が少なくなった which you haven't touched on yet?

I could still perhaps understand where one should use 行くって言っていました and 行ったと言ってました.

However I'm not sure of 赤いセーターを着た男が来たら、教えてください and スパイスをふんだんに使った料理をお出しします where the perfect tense of the verbs are used. By what you said, it sounds like we always have to use the perfect tense of a verb to qualify a noun. I can't think of a situation where verbs of imperfect tense to be used.
 

jt_

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人生絶賛迷走中-san, thanks for your explanation. I never came across the same in any textbook of Japanese language. I've learnt a lot.
You're welcome! (By the way, 人生絶賛迷走中 is my "title." My username is just "jt_", which might be easier for you to type. ;)

You explained very clearly about 疲れた and お腹空いた as well as 疲れている and お腹空いている. Does this concept apply to all verbs?
Yes, the overall concept of perfect/imperfect tense applies to all verbs in Japanese, though it strikes me that it's the particular way this manifests itself with "stative" verbs like 疲れる and 空く (i.e. those that describe a change in state rather than a continuous action) is what's tripping you up in particular. (Continuous action verbs like 走る, 食べる, 話す, etc. etc. are generally less confusing.)

By the way I guess 「ああ~、疲れる!」 could also mean "It's tiring". Am I right?
Yes, that's also a valid colloquial translation,

What about 時間が少なくなった which you haven't touched on yet?
Like Julie.chan said, this isn't really the most colloquial way to say "There isn't much time." (that would be あまり時間がない, which you'll note is imperfect tense), but as for why it uses the perfect tense, it's because the Japanese sentence isn't literally saying "There isn't much time.", but rather "the amount of time has become less". なる means "to become" and at the point where there "isn't" much time left, the action (i.e. time becoming a small quantity) has already occurred. Hence the perfect tense.

However I'm not sure of 赤いセーターを着た男が来たら、教えてください and スパイスをふんだんに使った料理をお出しします where the perfect tense of the verbs are used. By what you said, it sounds like we always have to use the perfect tense of a verb to qualify a noun. I can't think of a situation where verbs of imperfect tense to be used.
There are plenty of situations where imperfect tense verbs can be used to modify a noun:

図書館にある本 a book (or books) in the library (present state)
春に咲く花 a flower that blooms in spring (habitual action)
来月結婚する兄 my older brother, who will get married next month (future event)

The important distinction is whether or not the action has been completed.
 

healer

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Thanks again jt_ san.

In fact I forgot to mention that the action of 疲れました and お腹空いた mightn't be completed because I believe the state could continue to worsen if left untreated.

Could you please give me some examples of 走る, 食べる, 話す that could illustrate the same situation?

I can't tell the difference in the nature of the sentences between the two long examples and 来月結婚する兄 in that all three refer to events not yet happen. It beats me why the two have perfect tense while the last one has imperfect tense.
 

Toritoribe

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In fact I forgot to mention that the action of 疲れました and お腹空いた mightn't be completed because I believe the state could continue to worsen if left untreated.
疲れる or お腹が空く is not a state. 疲れている or お腹が空いている is a state.
What the -te iru form expresses differs depending on the type of verbs. 走る, 食べる or 話す is a durative verb(継続動詞). The -te iru form expresses on-going action (e.g. to be running, to be eating, to be speaking), whereas 死ぬ or 結婚する is a punctual verb(瞬間動詞). The -te iru form expresses the present state resulting from the past action. For instance, 死んでいる means "to be dead", not "to be dying". The subject died in the past, and as a result, is dead now. Similarly, 結婚している is "to be married", not "to be marrying". 疲れる and 空く both belong to punctual verbs.

I can't tell the difference in the nature of the sentences between the two long examples and 来月結婚する兄 in that all three refer to events not yet happen. It beats me why the two have perfect tense while the last one has imperfect tense.
Think about the situation where you'll see a man wearing a red sweater. The man will already wear it at the time, i.e., the action "to wear/put on" is already completed. Similarly, when the dish is served, spices will be already used. That's why the past/perfect tense is used there. Notice that the tense is relative in Japanese. The point is not that it's future or past comparing to now (absolute tense).
 

healer

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Thanks I think I got it this time as far as 赤いセーターを着た男が来たら、教えてください , スパイスをふんだんに使った料理をお出しします and 来月結婚する兄 are concerned.
 
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