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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!