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Previous experience with 〜た+ことがある

Past experience is conveyed by appending ことがある to the past-tense form of a verb. こと turns the phrase before it into a noun.

Alternate explanations

Someone has done something. Someone has had an experience doing something. There was a time when ~.

In general, Sinf-past ことがある expresses the idea that there was a time when someone or something was in a state or did something.

More specifically, Sinf-past ことがある expresses one’s experience. In this case, Sinf-past ことがある is an extended use of the possession expression “Aは Bが ある”, where B is a past action rather than a possessed thing. This extended use of the possession expression of experience in Japanese is parallel to that in English. Possession: “I have a car.” Experience: “I have [studied Russian.] (past action)”

Makino, Seiichi and Michio Tsutsui. “Main Entries.” A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, The Japan Times Ltd., 1989, pp. 196–197

The た form of a verb, followed by ことがある, expresses experience: someone has had the experience of doing something or being somewhere.

To express a lack of experience doing something or being somewhere, こと が/は ない is used in place of こと が ある.

Kamiya, Taeko. “Expressing Ability, Preference, Desire, Intention, Resolution, and Experience.” Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication, Kodansha, 2005, p. 204

Stating Previous Experience (Vた ことがあります)

Nは Vた ことがあります

N has had the experience of doing V.

This pattern is used to indicate that one has had the experience of doing something, and that something is expressed by a verb in the plain-form past tense before ことがあります (“to have the experience”).

Chino, Naoko. “Basic Pattern 38.” A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns, Kodansha, 2000, p. 228


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