Repeated past tense verb become imperative?

For example I saw in a drama I am watching a character is trying to get past students and they say ”ほら どいた どいた" Which I believe to be the past tense of 退く to move aside

Another example is here

Where the character says “行った行った”

It seems in both of these cases they are telling someone to “move aside” and the second to “move along” or so forth. I have not really been able to find any details on this though, is this a common thing to say? How exactly is this working with the past tense of a verb here?


This is basically a rough way to give a command in modern Japanese that uses the た form, or past tense form of a verb. It is considered by some linguists as the most rude imperative form in the Japanese language.

Since the て form and the た form use the same rules, it’s easy to see the connection.


Here’s a paper I just found on the subject. It not only explains the usage of the た form as a command, but also its origin. A very interesting read:;recordOId=1322097;fileOId=1322098


Interesting paper although the conclusion seems a bit wonky and not well supported (which they admit themselves). I’d never actually explicitly learnt about this so had just picked it up from immersion. In fact I hadn’t connected some of the common usages as being the same “grammar” as the contexts I’d learn them in are so different. In some contexts, to me, it feels less an imperative and more a “complaint”. I guess the line between a very strong appeal to someone and a command can be quite fuzzy though (I’m thinking especially of the rather casual usage of 待った between close friends). Equally, the example of people selling stuff shouting 買った always felt more like a strong way of informing people than a command. Consider an American baseball hotdog vendor or something shouting “Hotdogs! Hotdogs sold here!”. It feels pretty similar to me, at least contextually that’s how it has always felt to me (in tone, not as a grammatical equivalent). I’m not sure how much this comes down to me not fully knowing the technical definition of the grammatical imperative though…

As a side note, I always wonder why these academic papers and stuff about Japanese only use romaji. I understand that romaji and some literal translation gloss is necessary for linguists reading who don’t know Japanese however it is so painful to read if you do know the language. It seems a pretty standard practice as well, from the academic papers I’ve read in English.


If this is true (past tense is used as a command “move aside”, and not passive voice “hot dogs sold here”. I actually have no idea.

if I was writing a bunpro hint I would call it “go already” as already usally implies past, but in this case means you are inpatient to remind you to use past tense.

“Hotdogs (are) sold here” is 受身形 passive voice to “I sell hot dogs here”

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Just like all academic papers tend to be written in English to allow for researchers of any nationality to partake equally in scientific discourse, this has to be in order to eliminate the requirement that all linguists must learn all scripts in order to partake in scientific discourse about languages using those scripts, I would assume.


Sure but why only romaji?


They also use glossing rules that don’t work with kana. Note how 飲む is written as nom-u and くれ is written as kur-e to mark the individual morphemes.


The author of the paper addresses that by mentioning other linguists who see this in a similar way as you’ve described it. That said, if you think about it, when a salesperson at a marketplace says “Buy hotdogs! Here on sale!” or some such, it can be perceived as a “command” since they want you to buy from them. As in “Come here!” or “Buy here!”.

The author also provided examples of this being used with close friends, in a joking manner, among other usages.

Yes! That bothered the heck out of me too. I wished, as you mentioned, that the author also included the actual Japanese as well. I get that not all linguists are going to know to speak every single language but, given the author is writing about Japanese, it should include Japanese.


Yeah, I was originally going to write my English example with that same construction but didn’t want to have my comment about tone to be mistaken for one about grammar. You’re completely right though.

I think the paper has a large weakness of the original research being essentially limited to the vibe check of one native speaker (whose relation to the author is not clear - given it is an undergrad paper I wouldn’t be surprised if they were just friends). I do wonder if there is one of those NHK surveys or something about the usages of -た for things other than the simple past. (I might have a look later.) It’s an interesting topic.


Ah, I misread your comment, apologies. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to include both.


When I see past tense like this, which I see quite often in books, I usually interpret it as a command that is basically saying to the person ‘why haven’t you already done (A)’

So, どいたどいた! Would be like ‘Why haven’t you mov-ed- already you idiots’.

In the speaker’s mind, they’re saying ‘Anyone with half a brain would have already -done- this’.


Perhaps the strongest case of Baader-Meinhof I’ve ever experienced: I had never come across this grammar point before I read this thread earlier today, and since then I’ve seen it in a manga and heard it in anime.

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