Japanese Grammar on Expressing Experience - Intermediate Lessons: 2

In this second intermediate lesson you will get to learn the Japanese grammar for expressing your experience in the past.

It's formed by using the sentence pattern of "Japanese verb (た-form) ことがある/あります" (ta-form koto ga aru/arimasu).

This is a very useful grammar in daily conversation when you need to say something which you or others have experienced or something you or others have done in the past.

It can also be used to ask the experience of others.

Sentence Pattern

The sentence pattern for this Japanese grammar is...

Verb (た-form) ことがあります
Verb (ta-form) koto ga arimasu

Normally if you say "去年日本へ行きました" (kyonen nihon e ikimashita), it means you have been to Japan last year.

This sentence is talking about your action at that moment (last year). It doesn't say anything about other thing.

But if you say "日本へ行ったことがあります" (nihon e itta koto ga arimasu), you are saying you have been to Japan in the past. It doesn't matter when that happened. So long you have been to Japan previously.

So if you want to mention that you have done a particular thing at a particular moment, use normal past tense.

However, if you want to say you have done a particular thing in the past regardless of when you did it, use "ta-form koto ga arimasu".

As this Japanese grammar is talking about something you have done in the past regardless of when you did it, you cannot put a time stamp in the statement.

For example, the following sentence is wrong...

  • 昨日刺身を食べたことがあります。 X
    kinou sashimi wo tabeta koto ga arimasu X
    Meaning: I have experienced of eating sashimi yesterday. X

    Note: This sentence is wrong because the time stamp kinou is not required.

Instead you should just say...

  • 刺身を食べたことがあります。
    sashimi wo tabeta koto ga arimasu
    Meaning: I have eaten sashimi before.

No Experience in the Past: ta-form koto ga nai/arimasen

For thing that you have neither experienced nor done in the past, you just need to change the form to negative like this...

Verb (た-form) ことがありません
Verb (ta-form) koto ga arimasen

For example, if you have not climb Mount Fuji in your life, you can say...

  • 富士山に登ったことがありません。
    fujisan ni nobotta koto ga arimasen

    Meaning: I have not climbed Mount Fuji before.

If you have not play Pachinko (Japanese pinball game) before, you can say...

  • パチンコをしたことがありません。
    pachinko wo shita koto ga arimasen

    Meaning: I have not played Pachinko before.

Number of Times You Have Done in the Past

Although you cannot put the time stamp like "yesterday" or "last year" in this Japanese grammar, you can put in how many times you have done it in your life.

In this case, make use of the Japanese counter 度 (ど - do) or 回 (かい - kai).

So if you have climbed Mount Fuji for once in the past, you can say the following sentence...

  • 一度/一回 富士山に登ったことがあります。
    ichido/ikkai fujisan ni nobotta koto ga arimasu

    Meaning: I have climbed Mount Fuji once.

If you want to say you have played Pachinko for many times, use the word 何度も (なんども - nandomo) or 何回も (なんかいも - nankaimo)...

  • 何度も/何回も パチンコをしたことがあります。
    nandomo/nankaimo pachinko wo shita koto ga arimasu

    Meaning: I have played Pachinko many times.

For the negative form "ta-form koto ga arimasen", if you want to emphasize that you have not done something even once, use the word 一度も (いちども - ichidomo).

For example, if you want to stress that you have not drink alcohol even once, you can say...

  • 一度も お酒を飲んだことがありません。
    ichidomo osake wo nonda koto ga arimasen

    Meaning: I have not drunk alcohol even once.

Please take note that 一度も (いちども - ichidomo) can only be used with negative sentence.

Asking If Someone Has the Experience of Doing Something

It's simple to turn this Japanese grammar into a question. Just append the question word か (ka) at the end of the sentence.

So if you want to ask someone whether he has climbed Mount Fuji before...

  • Question: 富士山に登ったことがありますか。
    fujisan ni nobotta koto ga arimasu ka
    Meaning: Have you climbed Mount Fuji before?
  • Answer 1: はい、登ったことがあります。
    hai, nobotta koto ga arimasu
    Meaning: Yes, I have climbed Mount Fuji before.
  • Answer 2: いいえ、登ったことはありません。
    iie, nobotta koto wa arimasen
    Meaning: No, I have not climbed Mount Fuji before.

In actual conversation, you might have used Plain form in your sentences. Therefore instead of あります (arimasu) or ありません (arimasen), you should use ある (aru) or ない (nai) respectively.

The frequency of using this Japanese grammar is quite high in conversation so read through this lesson few times until you are familiar with it.

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