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Japanese phrases for talking about tenses

Updated on March 15, 2013

The Japanese language, just like western languages does exhibit different forms of the verbs to depict the timeframe being discussed. However, Japanese is different in more ways than one. There is no difference between the present and future tense form in the Japanese language. They are one and the same. The Japanese are able to differentiate the future from the present using some words placed strategically in the statements. The English language does exhibit such behavior too when the present form of tenses are used to depict the future tense form. The English words such as tomorrow or yesterday are used to depict the timeframe being discussed about.

The most interesting thing about the Japanese language is that all three English subjects (I, you, they) are one and the same thing in Japanese. The verb conjugation is used differently depending on the subject in question. In the Japanese language, the verb conjugation is the same for all the three subjects - the first person (represented by ‘I’), the second person (represented by ‘you’), and the third person (represented by ‘they’) - Whether the subject is in plural or in singular form, the Japanese language deals with it the same way. The regular verbs are the most common verbs in use in the Japanese language. The learner is therefore advised to master the use of the regular verbs because their use forms over 90 percent verb usage in the Japanese language. The irregular verbs are rarely used and this explains the usage of the regular verbs.

Example Phrases

Here are some common examples:

What are you doing right now? - 今何をしていますか?

I'm shopping. - 私は買い物をしています。

I'm at Chinatown. - 私はチャイナタウンにいます。

I'm at the beach. - 私はビーチにいます。

I'm at a cafe. - 私はカフェにいます。

I'm with my friends. - 私は友達といます。

I'm with my parents. - 私は両親といます。

I'm at work. - 私は仕事をしています。

I'm working. - 私は働いています。

What did you do yesterday? - 昨日何をしましたか?

What did you do on the weekend? - 週末何をしましたか?

What did you do last week? - 先週何をしましたか?

I went shopping. - 私は買い物に行きました。

I did some shopping. - 私はいくつか買い物をしました。

I went to Chinatown. - 私はチャイナタウンに行きました。

I went to the beach. - 私はビーチに行きました。

I was with my friends. - 私は友達といました。

I was reading at a cafe. - 私はカフェで本を読んでいました。

I was drinking at a bar. - 私はバーで飲んでいました。


The phrases provided above are meant to improve your vocabulary of the Japanese language. Ensure that you keep practicing them to perfect the new language. Writing is even more difficult to manage if you have no outside help from any Japanese friends. The Japanese phrases for talking about tenses are mostly colloquial and if you as a learner are not keen, then learning the language will prove difficult. This situation is common in foreign students who visit Japan for educational purposes. The importance of making friends who speak the language is reiterated in this scenario. They can help you learn the language faster. Encourage them to correct you every time you blunder in the pronunciation of some words. This will help you perfect these Japanese phrases in no time.


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    • SolveMyMaze profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, this is a seriously detailed hub. I had no idea that in Japanese the present and future tenses are the same. I suppose this would at first make learning the language a tad trickier, and also confuse anyone that you're talking to!


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