VTE + IRU (いる)
The structure “Verb (-Te form) + IRU (いる)” expresses a durative action (an action that lasts over time), a repetitive occurrence (generally with a word expressing frequency), or a state (a state resulting from a change).
Generally, it’s easy to identify a repetitive occurrence thanks to a word of frequency. But it’s not so easy to differentiate a progressive action from a state. However, thanks to the context and after gaining some experience in the Japanese language, you’ll differentiate them instinctively.
When speaking, -ている can become てる. In the examples that follow, い is put in parentheses whenever this contraction is possible.
Here is an example of a progressive action that is happening at the moment:
|Nani o shite (i)ru no?|
|What are you doing?|
|Eiga o mite (i)ru.|
|I am watching a movie.|
He is an example of an action that occurs “often” (frequency).
|Tanaka san wa yoku choushoku ni nattou o tabete (i)ru.|
|Mr. Tanaka often eats nattou at breakfast.|
YOKU (よく) here expresses the frequency (YOKU = often). But even if you remove YOKU, you’ll still keep the repetitive aspect of the action in that sentence, because the breakfast is supposed to take place every day. It’s clear that he is not eating nattō right now (which would have been the durative/progressive aspect). Instead, we understand it’s one of his habits.
-ている is also used to express a state
|Kudamono ga kusatte (i)ru yo.|
|The fruits are rotten.|
Motion verbs can also express a state:
|Sensei wa furansu ni itte (i)masu.|
|My teacher has gone to France.|
My teacher is not really in the process of going there, but he has been staying there for some time. It’s an ongoing action, in other words, a state.
However, this is not always the case:
|Kouen no mae o aruite (i)ru otokonoko wa furansujin da to omou yo.|
|I think that the boy who is walking in front of the park is a French boy.|
Let’s observe a particular situation with “SHITE IRU” (している). You already know the verb する, and it can often be translated as “to do.” As a foreigner, that’s what you’ll logically think. But sometimes, する is used very differently. In fact, it can designate a profession (in that case, translating as “to do” might still work), but it can also describe the characteristics of individuals, such as having big eyes, short hair, long hands, etc. In such a case, it’s the -TE form of する that must be used. Take a minute to analyze the following examples to understand:
|Kono inu wa ookii mimi o shite (i)masu ne.|
|This dog has big ears, hasn’t it?|
|Boku wa kisha o shite (i)ru yo.|
|I am a journalist.|
|Kanashi sou na me o shite (i)masu ne.|
|She seems to have some sad eyes, doesn’t she?|
One last important notion to pay attention to is the difference between MATTE (待って) and MATTETE (待ってて) from the verb 待つ (MATSU, to wait). For “待って,” the person who is asked to wait is moving. Whereas with “待ってて,” the person who is asked to wait has already been waiting for some time (state of waiting), and is asked to continue to do so.