The meaning of shiteru (してる) in Japanese and how to use it

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word shiteru, including its Japanese definition and translation, example sentences, similar expressions and more!

What does shiteru mean?

Shiteru means doing in Japanese. It is the shortened form of shiteiru, which has the same meaning but is more formal. Both terms are based on the verb suru (する), whose meaning is to do.

The following question is a really common way to use shiteru, often in text messages:

Ima nani shiteru no?
What are you doing now?

Note that the verb suru is often added to another word to form a different meaning from its original do. For example, ai suru (愛する) means to love and becomes ai shiteru. Here, the shiteru functions a little bit like the -ing form (present participle) in English.

Kimi wo ai shiteru.
I love you (lit: I am loving you).

Below, we take a look at some examples of how to use shiteru in Japanese.

Example sentences using shiteru

Shiteru is the casual way to say "doing" in Japanese.

To make it easier for you, I have written each sentence in full Japanese kanji on the first line, followed by roman letters (romaji), and hiragana, with the English meaning coming last.

Urusai ne! Tonari no hito wa nani shiterun darou?
It’s noisy, isn’t it? I wonder what the neighbor is doing.

Kare wa nani shiteru hito?
What does he do? (casual)

Ima, otouto wa sakkaa no renshuu shiteru rashii.
My younger brother is apparently practicing soccer now.

Shiteru vs. Shiteiru

As I wrote above, shiteru and shiteiru have the same meaning, but shiteiru is more formal. Well, actually shitteiru is the more standard (i.e., correct) Japanese. In general then, you should stick to using shiteiru instead of shiteru. This goes especially for when talking to your boss or strangers.

The one main exception is in text messages or emails to friends like the “nani shiteru no?” given above. In that context, shiteru is more natural.

Shiteru vs. Shitteru

One thing to remember is that, despite having seemingly similar sounds, shiteru is completely different from shitteru (知ってる、しってる), which means know and is based on the verb shiru (知る), to know.

The way to distinguish between the two words is to remember that shitteru has a small “tsu” (っ), which is a silent market that essentially functions as a glottal stop. In other words, shitteru has a slight pause between the shi and tteru, whereas shiteru has no such pause.

If this sounds confusing for now, don’t stress. I recommend learning the hiragana script instead of relying on roman letters. It will help clear up misunderstandings such as this one.