Japanese Lesson 16 – Expression of the past and the future in Japanese

In English, there are clear sentence patterns expressing actions in the past and future.
The grammatical structure is called as tense.
Each verb has a past form, auxiliary verb “have” and past participle make the perfect tense, and “will” makes the future tense.

But, Japanese don’t have concept of tense.

The past form of Japanese

In Japanese, the sentence of past tense is made by adding an auxiliary verb “ta” at the end of the sentence.

You have learned Japanese by the frames with “masu” and “desu”.
It is easy to make the sentence of past tense by the frames.
But you must learn the case that “ta” is connected to the verb directly later.
That is complex.
So I don’t explain that in this page.

Now, let’s take a look at the frames for making the sentence of past tense.
First, declarative sentence and interrogative sentence.


When “ta” is connected after “masu” and “desu”, the end part of them are changed like inflection of verb.

Next is a case of negative sentence.


You can’t make Japanese negative sentence of past tense simply.
Because, “ta” can’t be connected after the auxiliary verb of negation “n”.
Therefore, “desu” is used between them.
“Masen deshita” is a group of complex words combining four auxiliary verbs, indeed.

Anyway, this verb group is long, but you should learn this without complaining.

Adverbs expressing the past and the future

Auxiliary verb “ta” makes the sentence of the past.
On the other hand, the sentence expressing the future is expressed by the present tense you have learned so far.

Of course, it is not sufficient to express them by only the sentences.
In Japanese, adverbs play a major role in the sentence to do so.

Adverbs expressing the past


Main adverbs expressing the past are in the above table.

There are the adverbial phrases using concrete number such as “three years ago” other than these.
About it, I explain in the page of number in Japanese.

You can make adverbial phrase using above adverb and the particles “kara” or “made” expressing the range of time.
By using the phrases, you can express habit and continuation like perfect tense in English.

Adverbs expressing the future


Main adverbs expressing the future are similar to the above adverbs.


A: I was arrived at Tokyo yesterday.
B: How long are you going to stay in Tokyo?
A: I will go to Sapporo tomorrow.
B: I went to Sapporo last month, too.
A: What did you eat in Sapporo?
B: I ate sushi.
A: How long do you stay in Japan?
B: I am in Japan until next month.

A: Watashi wa kinoo Tookyoo ni tsuki mashita.
B: Anata wa itsu made Tookyoo ni iru no desu ka?
A: Watashi wa ashita Sapporo e iki masu.
B: Watashi mo sengetsu Sapporo e iki mashita.
A: Anata wa Sapporo de nani o tabe mashita ka?
B: Watashi wa sushi o tabe mashita.
A: Anata wa itsu made Nihon ni iru no desu ka?
B: Watashi wa raigetsu made Nihon ni i masu.

Adverbs expressing the present tense

Of course, you can use the following adverbs in above tables for the sentence of the present tense.

ima (now), kyoo (today), konshuu (this week), kongetsu (this month), kotoshi (this year)

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