The Progressive/Continued State: -Te iru ~ている

第43課: The Progressive/CONTINUED STATE: ~ている

When used with the particle て, いる functions as a supplementary verb. In Japanese a supplementary verb is a verb that loses some or all of its literal connotations to serve (a) specific grammatical purpose(s). Although it retains some resemblance to its basic meaning of indicating state, ~ている should be treated separately from いる.

~ている is most known for its role in making the “progressive tense,” but it is also known for having several interrelated nuances which can cause great difficulty for learners to distinguish in context and execute in practice.

Conjugation Summary: ~ている conjugates normally with Ichidan conjugations.

Plain SpeechPolite Speech
Negative Past~ていなかった~ていませんでした

Translation Note: The meaning of ~ている is dependent on the semantic nature of the verb it is used with; therefore, single-word translations for its conjugations are not reliable. Over the course of this lesson, take note of how examples are translated to get a feel for how to translate them.


Correctly interpreting ~ている depends on what kind of verb is being used with it. “Kind” here does not refer to how the verb conjugates, but rather what it means semantically and its relation to verbs of similar meaning.  


The main usage of ~ている is to indicate the progressive tense, also known as the “-ing form” in English. The agent of the verb is doing something, which itself is an ongoing state in the present time. Likewise, the progressive tense can also indicate events that are happening without a willful agent. This divide usually manifests as the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs respectively. In either case, the verb ought to one that takes time to occur.

1. 太朗たろうは朝ご飯を食べています。
Taro is eating breakfast.

2. まだ食べていませんよ。
I haven’t eaten (it) yet.

3. お風呂ふろはもういていますか。
Is the bath hot yet? 

4. 今日もおだやかなお天気が続いていますね。
The moderate weather is continuing into today, huh?

5. 明治大学で法律ほうりつを勉強しています。
I am studying law at Meiji University.

6. ファイルを編集しています。
I am editing the file.

When used with a time expression showing duration, ~ている may be interpreted as the present progressive perfect tense – “has been…-ing.”

7.  かれこれ一時間ずっと同じ作業をやっています。
I’ve been doing the same work for the last hour or so straight.

As for ~ていた, it may correspond to the past progressive tense – “was/were… -ing” – or the past progressive perfect tense – “had been… -ing” depending on context as Japanese lacks separate perfect tense conjugations.

8. 子供は宿題をしていた。
The kid(s) was/were doing homework.

9. 川崎幸太郎は同じ工場で10年ほどチーズケーキを作っていた。
Kotaro Kawasaki had been making cheesecakes at the same factory for around 10 years.


There are instances when the action marked with ~ている is not literally being done now, but it is, in fact, something the agent habitually does. At times, context will be needed to distinguish something being done now from something being done continuously (as a habit).

10. A学校に通っています。
Meaning 1: I go to School A.
Meaning 2: I am commuting to School A.

11. 天才てんさいはいつも勉強にんでいる。
Geniuses are always diving into studies. 

12. 東京はどこへ行っても混んでいる。
Tokyo is crowded wherever you go.

13. 長いことシャワーを浴びてる人って中でいったい何をやっていますか?
So, the people who take long showers, what exactly are they doing in there?

An extension of this meaning is to indicate history of having done something, which may or may not be cyclical.

14. アレックスさんはもう10回も日本に旅行していますよ。
Alex has already traveled to Japan 10 times.

15. 阿部元首相が亡くなってからもう一年経っているんだね。
A year has already past since Former Prime Minister Abe past away, huh.

 State of Being

Many verbs in Japanese capture instances, and when ~ている is attached, it denotes the state of being that stands true upon that instance. For instance, when you stand up, the act of standing is marked by 立つ, and so 立っている is not marking the process of standing up but the state of standing up.

16. ネクタイがまがっている。
(My) necktie is crooked. 

17. 古着ふるぎを着ています。
I’m wearing old clothes. 〇
I’m putting on old clothes. X

18. 彼女は長いかみをしている。
She has long hair. 

19. 教師きょうしをしています。
I am a teacher. 

20. 私は東京えきの近くに住んでいます。
I live near Tokyo Station.

21. おかあさんによくていますね。
You resemble your mother well. 

Many such verbs that are interpreted this way are intransitive. Great examples include 開く (to be open), 閉まる (to be closed), 入る (to go/be in), 出る (to go/come out), 壊れる (to be broken), 汚れる (to be dirty), etc. If the intransitive verb indicates a change to the status quo, ~ている indicates the state of being that comes into being upon that change.

22. そのはしは石でできている。
The bridge is made of stone. 

23. この机はこわれています。
 This desk is broken. 

24. 砂糖さとうはもうはいっています。
Sugar is already in it.

25. 町はたに位置いちしている。
The town lies in the valley. 

26. 山がそびえている。
The mountain towers above (everything).

27. その教科書は初学者しょがくしゃてきしています。
The textbook is suitable for beginners. 

28. その時計とけい5ふんほど進すすんでいます。
The clock is five minutes fast. 

29. つかれています。
I’m tired. 

~ている may still be interpreted in this way with transitive verbs. In such contexts, the verb is not one that is acted out.

30. 私は車を持っています。
 I own a vehicle. 

31. この金額きんがく総合保険そうごうほけんふくんでいますか。
Does this price include fully comprehensive insurance? 

It must be noted that the existential verbs ある and いる cannot be used with ~ている※. Avoiding ~ている with them may involve not using ~ている at all or switching to another verb that expresses a state of being.

32. 今晩いている部屋へやはありますか。
Do you have any vacant rooms this evening? 

33a. 木になっていたリンゴを集めた。〇
33b. 木にあっていたリンゴを集めた。X
33c. 木にあったリンゴを集めた。??
I gathered the apples that [had ripened/were] on the tree. 

Word Note: This なる is 生る, which means “to bear fruit.” What makes 33c unnatural is that it sounds as if the apple is somehow out of place inside a tree.

Similarly, the existential verb 存在する (to exist) is often not natural with ~ている unless context allows for the present progressive tense.

34a. 幽霊は存在する
34b. 幽霊は昔々から存在している。
34a. Ghosts exists.
34b. Ghosts have existed since long ago.

※In some dialects, いる can be used with ~ている, resulting in いてる. This is commonplace in Kansai Dialects, and it is always used in the present progressive perfect tense.

Generally speaking, if the verb in question typically happens in an instant, describing the process in the moment will require other grammar points, and how exactly one goes about this will vary based on the semantic nature of the verb. Notice how in some of the structures demonstrated below that ~ている is often incorporated but clarified so that it can be interpreted as the progressive tense.

35a. お前はもう死んでいる!
35b. お前はもう死にかけている!
35a. You’re already dead!
35b. You’re already dying!

36a. あの赤ちゃんが生まれて初めて両足で立っているよ!
36b. あの赤ちゃんが生まれて初めて両足で立とうとしているよ!
36a. That baby is standing on their feet for the first time in their life!
36b. That baby is attempting to stand on their feet for the first time in their life!

37a. ジャケットを身に着けている。
37b. ジャケットを身に着けているところだ。
38a. I’ve put on a jacket.
39b. I’m putting on a jacket.

40a. 田中は銀行に行っています。
40b. 田中は銀行に行く途中です。
40a. Tanaka has gone to the bank.
40b. Tanaka is on the way to the bank.

41a. 数学が重要になっている。
41b. 数学がだんだん重要になってきている。
41a. Math has become important.
41b. Math is becoming ever more important.

42. 店員さんが飲み物を持ってきている最中だ。
The store employee is in the middle of bring over the drinks.

 State: Motion Verbs

For verbs of motion like 行く and 帰る, ~ている typically indicates the state of having already made said transition to the new location and is still there.

43. 彼女は東京に来ています。
She has come to Tokyo.

44. 彼はもう帰っている。
He’s already gone home.

45. 台風8号は小笠原諸島に向かって(きて)います。
Typhoon #8 is headed/heading towards the Ogasawara Islands.

~ていない VS ~ないでいる・ずにいる

The typical negative form of ~ている is ~ていない, which simply indicates that some action/state is not happening. However, you may also see ~ず(に)いる and ~ないでいる. These forms indicate a perpetual state of some state not being able to come into fruition, The difference between ~ないで and ~ず comes down to style, with the latter being more formal and poetic.

46. 覚えていません。
 I don’t remember.

47. ぼくは何もしていません。(男性語)
I’m not doing anything. 

48. けっして病気にならないでいることは不可能ふかのうだ。
It is impossible to never get sick.  

49. 彼はいつもかないでいる。
He is always not at ease. 


~ている is usually contracted to ~てる in casual conversation. Even in polite speech, it is commonplace to hear ~てます instead of ~ています. However, in truly polite situations such as being in an interview, it is avoided.

Dialect Note: In other regions of Japan, you will hear ~とる, ~よる, or even ~ちょる instead of ~てる. Sometimes, these different forms are used for different meanings of ~ている, but because this is beyond the realm of Standard Japanese, those differences will be for a future discussion. Incidentally, all of these dialectal involve おる, which in Standard Japanese is the humble form of いる.

50. 今の、聞いてましたか。
Were you listening to what I was saying just now? 

51. 父は私が何を勉強してるか知らない。
My dad doesn’t know what I am studying.

52. 動いとる!
It’s moving!

Word Note: 動く is “to move ” as in to physically move about, not “to move to a different house”. That meaning of the English verb “to move” is carried out by the verb 引っす.

States & Appearances  状態・様子

In the chart below, several verbs are showcased to give you a better idea of how to interpret ~ている and how it also relates to ~た, which often replaces it when used in the 連体形.

 ~た + Noun V+ている V+た
 A broken egg.
 The egg is broken.
 The egg broke.
 A slim figure
 To have a slim figure
 Figure got skinny.
 He, who is fat
 He is fat.
 He got fat.
 A pocket with a hole
 There’s a hole in my pocket
 A hole opened up in the pocket.
 A distorted viewpoint
 Your viewpoint is distorted.
 A rotten bridge
 A rotting/rotten bridge
 The bridge is rotting/rotten.
 The bridge rotted.
 A dented door
 The door is dented.
 The door got dented.
 A frozen river
 The river is frozen/freezing.
 The river froze.
 Dry sand
 The sand is dry/drying.
 The sand dried.
 Cracked wall
 There are cracks in the wall.
 Cracks have gotten in the wall.
 A twisted narrow path
 The narrow path is twisted.
 A chipped teacup
 The teacup is chipped.
 The teacup got chipped.