Japanese Language and Culture

Continuative (te-form)

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Plain Affirmative [て-stem]
[te-stem]
[do] and; [doing]
Polite Affirmative [い-stem] + まして
[i-stem] + mashite
Plain Negative* (1) [あ-stem] + ない & で
[a-stem] + nai & de
(2) [あ-stem] + なくて
[a-stem] + nakute
didn't [do] and; not [doing]
Polite Negative [い-stem] + ません & で
[i-stem] + masen & de

* These two forms are not completely interchangable. In many situations, one or the other will sound more natural for the particular construction it is being used in.



Inflection Examples:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
食べる
taberu
(to eat)
食べて
tabete
食べまして
tabemashite
食べないで
tabenai de
食べなくて
tabenakute
食べませんで
tabemasen de
話す
hanasu
(to speak)
話して
hanashite
話しまして
hanashimashite
話さないで
hanasanai de
話さなくて
hanasanakute
話しませんで
hanashimasen de
歩く
aruku
(to walk)
歩いて
aruite
歩きまして
arukimashite
歩かないで
arukanai de
歩かなくて
arukanakute
歩きませんで
arukimasen de
泳ぐ
oyogu
(to swim)
泳いで
oyoide
泳ぎまして
oyogimashite
泳がないで
oyoganai de
泳がなくて
oyoganakute
泳ぎませんで
oyogimasen de
呼ぶ
yobu
(to call)
呼んで
yonde
呼びまして
yobimashite
呼ばないで
yobanai de
呼ばなくて
yobanakute
呼びませんで
yobimasen de
飲む
nomu
(to drink)
飲んで
nonde
飲みまして
nomimashite
飲まないで
nomanai de
飲まなくて
nomanakute
飲みませんで
nomimasen de
死ぬ
shinu
(to die)
死んで
shinde
死にまして
shinimashite
死なないで
shinanai de
死ななくて
shinanakute
死にませんで
shinimasen de
作る
tsukuru
(to make)
作って
tsukutte
作りまして
tsukurimashite
作らないで
tsukuranai de
作らなくて
tsukuranakute
作りませんで
tsukurimasen de
待つ
matsu
(to wait)
待って
matte
待ちまして
machimashite
待たないで
matanai de
待たなくて
matanakute
待ちませんで
machimasen de
洗う
arau
(to wash)
洗って
aratte
洗いまして
araimashite
洗わないで
arawanai de
洗わなくて
arawanakute
洗いませんで
araimasen de

Irregulars:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
する
suru
(to do)
して
shite
しまして
shimashite
しないで
shinaide
しなくて
shinakute
しませんで
shimasen de
来る
kuru
(to come)
来て
kite
来まして
kimashite
来ないで
konaide
来なくて
konakute
来ませんで
kimasen de

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. The -te form has many uses in Japanese. By itself it is not a complete form: you can't end a gramatically complete sentence with it. It is a continuative form, forming a subordinate clause that requires a main clause for completion.
  2. One function is to list concurrent or successive actions or events where these events are somehow related. Often, but not always, there may be an implied causality between the actions. This form cannot connect two arbitrarily unrelated statements the way "and" can in English. Often, the topic doesn't change between the linked clauses.
    • 三週間前送って、いままでにそこに 届いただろう。
      san shuukan mae okutte, ima made ni soko ni todoita darou.
      I sent it three weeks ago and it's probably gotten there by now.
  3. Because the te-form is incomplete on its own, it can't come at the end of a grammatically complete sentence, but it frequently does come at the end of an utterance where the speaker is trailing off and leaving the remainder of the sentence implied. This is sometimes done to create polite ambiguity, or to be deliberately vague or indirect. Other times it's just part of colloquial language, where the speaker knows the rest of the sentence will be understood and leaves it out.
  4. Since the sentence-final (main clause) verb is generally the one which shows the politeness, the above listed polite te-forms are not heard much in ordinary speech. In very polite contexts, however, where keigo (honorific speech) is being used, the speaker may be want to leave a sentence trailing off at the end of a te-form clause, but be uncomfortable not indicating politeness. This one place the polite forms will be heard.
  5. The polite forms also make some appearances in polite set expressions such as 明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) — happy new year.
  6. There are many idiomatic constructions built around combining a -te form verb with an auxiliary. These are covered in the Expressions section below.
  7. One of the most common uses of the -te form is to construct a request, or in essence a polite imperative. This construction is created by adding ください (kudasai) to the -te form. Because this expression is so common and important, and because there are some related forms, it is covered as the request form. Often the -te form alone, without ください (kudasai) is used as a shorthand form of this expression (which also makes it a bit less formal).
  8. A clause which uses a te-form verb is always an adverbial clause, and it can be helpful to think of it this way when trying to understand its use. What this means is, the te-form clause is somehow modifying a subsequent clause or the main clause of the sentence, and providing some kind of information as to how, when, or where it is done.
    • シロップをかけて、パンケーキを食べた。
      shiroppu wo kakete, pankeeki wo tabeta.
      I poured on syrup and ate the pancakes.
    In this case, the te-form clause gives us information about how the pancakes were eaten. Even in most cases where it appears the te-form is linking a simple chain of events, you can find the adverbial interpretation of the te-form clause, and doing this may help you understand its logic.

Expressions

-te kudasai

-te agaru

-te kuru

-te morau

-te oku

-te iku / -te kuru

-te miru

-te kara

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