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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is...Why do Japanese people use the simple past tense, 持ちました (mochimashita) or 持った (motta) when they’re talking about something in their possession?
In Japanese, we often ask someone if they have something with them, like an umbrella or a pen, by using the simple past tense of the verb 持つ (motsu), which is 持ちました (mochimashita) or 持った (motta). However, in English it’s more common to say, “Do you have…?” using the present tense. So why do Japanese people do this?
持つ (motsu) is an action verb meaning “to take” or “to hold.” In Japanese, once the action of taking the item is finished, that action is considered to be in the past. Japanese focuses on the action already being completed, which has led to the current state of having something in your possession.
Let’s do some examples so you can learn how to use 持つ(motsu) correctly.
Let’s say your husband is leaving home, and you just want to confirm that he has his cellphone with him. You might ask him, 携帯電話を持ちましたか。(Kētai-denwa o mochimashita ka.) or 携帯電話、持った。(Kētai-denwa, motta.) “Do you have your cellphone with you?” In both sentences, you’re confirming whether or not your husband has brought his phone from home and if it’s currently in his possession.
Here is another example. if the weather is bad that day, your mom might say--
雨が降りそうだから、傘を持って行きなさい。(Ame ga furisō dakara, kasa o motte ikinasai.)
“It looks like it’s going to rain. Take an umbrella with you.”
If you already have it, you can respond with--
もう持ったよ。(Mō motta yo.)
“I already have it with me.”
Again, you use the past tense of the verb, 持った (motta) here.
There are other verbs in Japanese that are used in the past tense, where English uses them in the present tense.
Two of the most common ones would be 思い出します(omoidashimasu) meaning “to remember” and 分かります(wakarimasu) meaning “to understand.” This is because the action of remembering or understanding something is already finished once you have remembered or understood it. So, for “I remember something” in Japanese, you say 思い出しました (omoidashimashita) using the past tense. Also, to say “I understand,” in Japanese, you use 分かりました (wakarimashita) in the past tense. It may be a little confusing at first, but once you understand the meaning behind it, you’ll be sure to get it!
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね!(mata ne!) See you!

6 Comments

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 21st, 2016 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 4th, 2018 at 06:29 PM
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ルーカスさん

コメントありがとうございます!


Hiroko先生にかわってお答えします。

病院で受付係が言うのは、「(今)持っている」という状態を表す「保険証を持っていますか?」という表現が正しいです。「保険証を持ちましたか?」だと、家を出発する時に周りの人が訊いているように感じます。「持ちましたか?」は、何かをポケットやカバンに入れる動作を指すニュアンスが強いと思います。


Miki(美希)

Team JapanesePod101.com

ルーカス
March 18th, 2018 at 03:38 AM
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Hirokoさん、

こんにちは。いいレッスンでした!でも、質問があります。


レッスンの例文について、「持った」 か 「持ちました」が正しいでしょ。でも 「持っている」というを使ったら、同じ意味ですか?これが間違いますか?


他の例文:病院で受付係は「保険証を持っていますか?」と言う。この例文が正しいですか?ほか、「保険証を持ちましたか?」が正しいですか?


悪い日本語ですみませんでした。


よろしくお願いします!


ルーカス

JapanesePod101.com Verified
July 5th, 2016 at 04:35 PM
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Donnie さん、

こんにちは。

ひころせんせいにかわって、どういたしまして。

On behalf of Hiroko sensei, you are welcome.


Alain さん、

Konnichiwa.

I see. That is great.


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

Alain
June 30th, 2016 at 09:14 PM
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Hirokosan, thank you !

I never understood that "持った and わかりました”.

Very interesting answer!

Donnie
June 28th, 2016 at 07:23 AM
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ヒロコさん、このシーリズが大好きです!本当に役に立つと思います!ありがとうございます!


Hiroko-san, I really like this series! I think it is very helpful! Thank you very much!