Japanese Grammar Bank


In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the differences between the simple past and progressive past in Japanese.

Throughout this lesson you will see the simple past tense and progressive past verbs in their polite and impolite forms. All the points taught in this lesson apply to whatever formality level you are using.


When discussing an action completed in the past but with continued relevance, Japanese uses the ていた teita form, akin to expressing had done in English.

Asa okitara, otousan ga mou deteita.


Upon waking up in the morning, my dad had already left.

Phrase + verb ending in ていた

In English, the phrase had left might tempt us to use 出た deta in Japanese, giving the impression of a momentary departure. However, choosing 出ていた deteita is more appropriate.

This is because 出た deta would imply that my dad left precisely at the moment I woke up.

In Japanese, the continuous form is employed to convey that an action occurred, and its result remains relevant. Therefore, when we would use had left in English, the corresponding Japanese expression is 出ていた deteita.

Let’s look at some more examples:

仕事に行く前に、すでに朝食を食べていましたShigoto ni iku mae ni, sude ni asagohan o tabeteimashita.Before going to work, I had already eaten breakfast.
昨日、帰宅すると、家族が既に晩ご飯を作っていましたKinou, kitaku suru to, kazoku ga sude ni bangohan o tsukutteimashita.Yesterday, when I returned home, my family had already prepared dinner.
お昼ご飯の時間になると、同僚はもう弁当を食べていましたOhirugohan no jikan ni naru to, doukyou wa mou bento o tabeteimashita.When lunchtime came, my colleague had already eaten their lunch.
View More Examples:
レストランに到着すると、友達はすでに注文していましたResutoran ni touchaku suru to, tomodachi wa sude ni chuumon shiteimashita.When we arrived at the restaurant, my friend had already placed an order.
家に帰ると、犬はもう散歩に行っていましたIe ni kaeru to, inu wa mou sanpo ni itteimashita.When I got home, the dog had already gone for a walk.
ミーティングが始まる前に、彼はすでにプレゼンテーションを用意していましたMiitingu ga hajimaru mae ni, kare wa sude ni purezenteeshon o youi shiteimashita.Before the meeting started, he had already prepared the presentation.
試験の前に、彼女はもう全ての質問に答えていましたShiken no mae ni, kanojo wa mou subete no shitsumon ni kotaeteimashita.Before the exam, she had already answered all the questions.
昨晩、友達は映画を見終わっていましたSakuban, tomodachi wa eiga o miowatteimashita.Last night, my friend had already finished watching the movie.
到着すると、荷物はもう部屋に運ばれていましたTouchaku suru to, nimotsu wa mou heya ni hakobareteimashita.When I arrived, the luggage had already been brought to the room.
今朝、仕事に出かける前に、既にメールを確認していましたKesa, shigoto ni dekakeru mae ni, sude ni meeru o kakunin shiteimashita.This morning, before heading to work, I had already checked my emails.


To express sentences such as I have already ___ then you have to use もうmou combined with a past simple verb.

For example, if you want to say I’ve already done my homework then you’d say もう宿題は済ませた mou shukudai ha sumaseta. Notice that we haven’t used 済ませていた sumaseteita here.


もう+ past simple verb

もう昼ご飯を食べました。Mou hirugohan o tabemashita.I’ve already eaten lunch.
彼にはもうメッセージを送りました。Kare ni wa mou messeeji o okurimashita.I’ve already sent a message to him.
もう宿題を終えました。Mou shukudai o oemashita.I’ve already finished my homework.
View More Examples:
今朝、もうジョギングをしました。Kesa, mou jogingu o shimashita.I’ve already gone jogging this morning.
もうその本を読みました。Mou sono hon o yomimashita.I’ve already read that book.
レストランで夕食をもう食べました。Resutoran de yuushoku o mou tabemashita.I’ve already had dinner at the restaurant.
会議はもう終わりました。Kaigi wa mou owarimashita.The meeting has already ended.
もう映画を見ましたか?Mou eiga o mimashita ka?Have you already watched the movie?
もうその曲を聴きました。Mou sono kyoku o kikimashita.I’ve already listened to that song.
今日の仕事はもう終わりました。Kyou no shigoto wa mou owarimashita.I’ve already finished today’s work.

NOTE || If you want to say I’ve been to ___ or I’ve eaten ___ then it’ll probably be more natural to use ことがある koto ga aru grammar rather than using the above. The above is more for if you are emphasising that you’ve already completed an action.


To express sentences like I haven’t yet ____ then you’ll need the progressive tense.

まだ mada starts the sentence and the negative progressive tense finishes is.


まだ + negative progressive verb

For example, if you wanted to express I haven’t done my homework yet then you’d say まだ宿題をしていない Mada shukudai wo shitenai rather than まだ宿題をしない Mada shukudai wo shinai。The latter would translate to I’m not going to do my homework yet rather than I haven’t done my homework yet.

まだ宿題をしていません。Mada shukudai o shiteimasen.I haven’t done my homework yet.
彼にはまだメッセージを送っていません。Kare ni wa mada messeeji o okutteimasen.I haven’t sent a message to him yet.
まだ昼ご飯を食べていません。Mada hirugohan o tabeteimasen.I haven’t eaten lunch yet.
View More Examples:
今朝、まだジョギングをしていません。Kesa, mada jogingu o shiteimasen.I haven’t gone jogging this morning yet.
まだその本を読んでいません。Mada sono hon o yondeimasen.I haven’t read that book yet.
レストランで夕食をまだ食べていません。Resutoran de yuushoku o mada tabeteimasen.I haven’t had dinner at the restaurant yet.
会議はまだ終わっていません。Kaigi wa mada owatteimasen.The meeting hasn’t ended yet.
まだ映画を見ていませんか?Mada eiga o miteimasen ka?Haven’t you watched the movie yet?
まだその曲を聴いていません。Mada sono kyoku o kiiteimasen.I haven’t listened to that song yet.
今日の仕事はまだ終わっていません。Kyou no shigoto wa mada owatteimasen.Today’s work hasn’t finished yet.


  • The progressive past tense is used to express sentences where you might use had done in English, as in the sentence My dad had already gone to work when I woke up.
  • The simple past tense is combined with もうmou to make present perfect sentences like I have already done ___.
  • Sometimes it’s more appropriate to use the ことがあるkoto ga aru grammar to express I have already rather than もうmou and the simple past tense.
  • The negative progressive past tense is combined with まだmada to make present perfect sentences like I haven’t done ___ yet.

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How to negate the Japanese past tense?

The rules for forming the past-negative tense are consistent across all verbs.

You simply begin with the negative form of the verb, eliminate the いi from the ないnai ending, and substitute it with かったkatta.

Negated verb + かった

To make the formal negative tense, you would change the ます masu form of the verb to ませんでした masen deshita.

How to negate the Japanese present tense?

If you want to form the negative sentences, you would follow the rules below:

Casual 一段 verbs – Take off the るand replace it with ない.

Polite 一段 verbs – Take off the ますand replace it with ません.

Casual 一 五段 verbs – Change the last syllable with its あ equivalent and add ない.E.g., 書くto write → 書か→ 書かない don’t write.

Polite 一 五段 verbs – Take off the ます and replace it with ません.

Irregular – 来るbecomes 来ない. する becomesしない.

How to use the ます form?

With 一段 ichidan verbs:

– Take off the るru at the end

– Put a ますmasu in its place

With 五段 godan verbs:

– Change the last syllable for an いsound

– And throw on ます masu

With irregular verbs:

– する suru to do changes to しますshimasu.

– 来る kuru to come changes to 来ます kimasu.

How to conjugate verbs in the future tense?

There is no future tense conjugation of Japanese verbs.

You can infer whether a present tense verb is indicating the future through context or time words.

Where can I find more lessons like this?

Check out our Japanese Grammar Bank, where you’ll find lessons for levels A1, A2 and B2

Can I study Japanese in Japan with LTL?

Yes you can!

We offer group and individual classes in Tokyo, for the duration of your choice.

You can even stay with a homestay family to really immerse yourself in the Japanese culture and discover a Japanese’s family lifestyle.