Grammar

VTA + KOTO GA ARU (ことがある)


In Japanese, it’s possible to describe a previously experienced event with the following structure:

“Verb (in –Ta form) + KOTO + GA + ARU”

Use the plain past form of the verb (-Ta). This structure is often translated as “have already done + experience,” or “have you ever...” when asking a question.

日本(にほん)()ったことあります
Nihon ni itta koto ga arimasu.
I have already been to Japan.

Literally: The fact of having been to Japan exists.

This literal translation helps to understand the underlying construction of the Japanese construction. The subject has also been omitted, as it’s often the case in Japanese when the context is clear. However, it’s not mandatory to omit it.

(ぼく)日本(にほん)()ったことある
Boku wa nihon ni itta koto ga aru.
I have already been to Japan.

Literally: In my case, the fact of having been to Japan exists.

Of course, it’s possible to conjugate ARU (ある) to express negation, the past tense, politeness, etc. However, it can’t be translated in the future tense. It’s actually logical, since something that has already been experienced always refers to the past.

日本(にほん)()ったことありません
Nihon ni itta koto ga arimasen.
I have never been to Japan.

Literally: The fact of having been to Japan does not exist.

By using the negative form, we are referring to an experience that has never been lived yet. Notice that the change in the English sentence: “already” becomes “never.”

(ぼく)フランス()ったことあった
Boku wa furansu ni itta koto ga atta.
I had already been to France.

Literally: In my case, the fact that I have been to France had already existed.

This phrasing is not common, but exists.

The same applies to the negative form:

その(とき)までフランス()ったことありませんでした
Sono toki made furansu ni itta koto ga arimasen deshita.
I had never been to France until now.

Literally: Until now, the fact of having been to France has never existed.


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