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imasu vs desu

I have scoured the internet for a clear distinction but everyone seems to have a different opinion on when to use 'to have/there is' vs 'to be'.

The confusion hit me on page 146:
Koko wa konde iru kara...
Here, it's crowded.

Why use imasu here instead of desu?
I would think 'crowded here...being' would make more sense than 'crowded here...there is' because 'there is' implies an object is within 'here', rather than a condition. When I say "I am sad" I use desu and sad is a condition.


  • edited October 8
    The "iru" used in this sentence is actually not the same as the one for "there is" actually.

    This particular "iru" is part of the Japanese "-te iru" construction. This is something completely different from the regular "iru" that you know of, such as in "otoko no hito ga imasu" ("There is a man.")

    The "-te iru" is made up of "-te form of a verb + iru". It basically yields two meanings. The first meaning is progressive. The second meaning is resultative. The sentence that you asked actually is a case where "-te form of a verb + iru" has the second meaning, i.e. resultative.

    Let me talk about the first meaning, "progressive" though, because it is easier. With a type of verb that denotes an activity, "-te iru" yields a progressive interpretation. So,

    tabete iru (-te form of 'taberu' + iru) .... be eating
    nonde iru (-te form of 'nomu' + iru) .... be drinking
    kaite iru (-te form of 'kaku' + iru) .... be writing
    mite iru (-te form of 'miru' + iru) .... be watching
    nete iru (-te form of 'neru' + iru) .... be sleeping
    oyoide iru (-te form of 'oyogu' + iru) .... be swimming

    Notice how the verbs above denote "activities", which are a kind of events that can go on for some time.

    Now the resultative interpretation of "-te form + iru". When you use a type of verb that denotes an event that happens instantaneously, then "-te form + iru" yields a resultative interpretation, which is something like "event is over but the effect of it still obtains".

    Let me give you an example. The verb "shinu" means "to die", and this verb denotes an instantaneous event. What do I mean by that? Dying only takes a second. If someone dies, there should be an exact moment that he dies. At one moment he is not dead, but in the next moment he dies. This type of instantaneous event is to contrasted with an activity event that I talked about earlier, such as "swimming". Unlike "dying", "swimming" does not happen instantaneously. Rather, "swimming" occurs over a stretch of time, even if it is as short as 10 seconds. An event of swimming is made up of a series of moments where each moment is a homogeneous, swimming moment.

    Anyway, I hope you understand the difference between verbs that denote instantaneous events and verbs that denote activity events. Going back to the verb "shinu" (to die), when we use it in the -te iru construction, we get, "shinde iru", and it refers to the state right after dying happens. In English, we call that state "be dead". In Japanese, we take the state of being dead as the result of dying, or the state that obtains after dying happens.

    Let me give you another example. "Tsuku" means "to arrive" and it also denotes an instantaneous event. So when you say "tsuite iru", it yields a resultative interpretation. Let's make it more specific and add the phrase "kuukou ni" (at the airport). So "kuukou ni tsuiteiru" refers to the state that obtains as soon as someone arrives at the airport. What is that state? The state is that he is at the airport. So "kuukou ni tsuiteiru" means "(to have arrived at the airport) and to be at the airport."

    Now finally the phrase in question. "konde iru" is a combination of the te form of the verb "komu" (to get crowded) and "iru". The event denoted by "to get crowded" is an instantaneous event. So "konde iru" refers to the state that obtains as soon as a place gets crowded. What is that state? It is "be crowded". If something gets crowded, then it is now crowded.

    Many learners of Japanese skip learning all that background logic that I have just provided in the above, and instead just take the resultative "-te iru" phrases almost like idioms. For some learners, really understanding "behind the scenes" of the language helps, but for other learners, skipping all that and simply memorizing the translation might work better. People have different learning styles, and it is really up to you. 

  • So the difference between te iru vs imasu is
    te iru = to become instantly
    imasu = to do over prolonged time

    So I guess the distinction between resultative and past is the immediate transition vs the end result.  "He's now (at this time) dead in this hospital" vs "He died in this hospital".

    Is that right?

  • Actually no...

    First, "iru" and "imasu" are the same verb. "Iru" is the plain form version; "imasu" is the polite form version.

    You need to compare "te iru" and "iru"
    "te imasu" and "imasu".

    But it doesn't make sense to compare "te iru" and "imasu".

    "V-te iru" does not mean "to become instantly".
    "V-te iru" has two meanings. One meaning is progressive "to be -ing". The other refers to the state that obtains right after V happens.  

    "iru" does not mean "to do over prolonged time".
    "iru" means "(there) is" or "to exist"

    Resultative does not refer to "immediate transition".
    Resultative refers to the state that obtains right after something happens.
    For example, "be dead" is the state that obtains right after "to die" happens.

    Past tense verb refers the fact that something happened in the past, but the verb itself doesn't say anything about the end result.

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