て-Form (Vて)

Our life has been conjugation city lately.


Accordingly, I'd like to take a detour and just introduce some fun, random phrases.

BUT! I really can't do that because we just studied the plain past tense, and it would be foolish not to look at the て-form alongside it.

Why, you ask?

Because the plain past tense and the て-form are conjugated almost identically.

 

What's て-form?

When we conjugate a verb to end in て (or a variation of て), it can mean a number of things. For example, we can use it for requests and compound sentences.

But before we get to the uses of て-form, we'll need to master it's conjugation.

The good news: If you've read our last lesson, you're already 90% of the way there.

That's because:

Vて conjugates exactly like Vた, only the final sound is "e" and not "a."

Oh, and Vて is just an abbreviation of "て-form verbs," while Vた is an abbreviation of "plain past tense verbs."

Let's look at just how nicely these two conjugation patterns match up...

 

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but you will need to remember the difference between the three types of Japanese verbs:


1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs

// kau // to buy
// iku // to go
// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
// osu // to push; to press
// tatsu // to stand
// shinu // to die
あそ // asobu // to play
// nomu // to drink
すわ // suwaru // to sit down


2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs

食べたべ // taberu // to eat
起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up


3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs

する(suru // to do; to make
来る(くる // kuru // to come

 

For each conjugation pattern, we'll write:

V た (i.e. plain past tense)
V て (i.e. て-form)

The similarities should be painfully obvious...

*Note: In literal translations, we tend to write て-form verbs as "VERB (and)." You'll see this a lot in pretty much all of our lessons. It doesn't always make sense in the context of the sentence, but that's kind of the whole point of literal translations — to show how Japanese and English are intrinsically different languages...
 


 1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs 


-う・-つ・-る → -った
-う・-つ・-る → -って

// kau // to buy
→ 買ったった // katta // bought
→ 買ってって // katte // buy [and]

// tatsu // to stand
→ 立ったった // tatta // stood
→ 立ってって // tatte // stand [and]

すわ // suwaru // to sit down
→ 座ったすわった // suwatta // sat down
→ 座ってすわって // suwatte // sit down [and]


-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んだ
-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んで

// shinu // to die
→ 死んだんだ // shinda // died
→ 死んでんで // shinde // die [and]

あそ // asobu // to play
→ 遊んだあそんだ // asonda // played
→ 遊んであそんで // asonde // play [and]

// nomu // to drink
→ 飲んだんだ // nonda // drank
→ 飲んでんで // nonde // drink [and]


-く → -いた
-く → -いて

// kaku // to write
→ 書いたいた // kaita // wrote
→ 書いていて // kaite // write [and]


-ぐ → -いだ
-ぐ → -いで

// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
→ 脱いだいだ // nuida // took off [e.g. shoes]
→ 脱いでいで // nuide // take off [e.g. shoes] [and]


-す → -した

// osu // to push; to press
→ 押したした // oshita // pushed; pressed
→ 押してして // oshite // push [and]; press [and]


例外:いく → いった
(Note: As mentioned in the last lesson, 例外 (れいがい) means "exception" in Japanese.)

行くいく // iku // to go
行ったいった // itta // went
行っていって // itte // go [and]



 2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs 

-る → -た
-る → -て


食べたべ // taberu // to eat
→ 食べたべ // tabeta // ate
→ 食べたべ // tabete // eat [and]

起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up
→ 起きおき // okita // got up; woke up
→ 起きおき // okite // get up [and]; wake up [and]



 3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs 


する → した
する → して

するsuru // to do; to make
してshite // do [and]; make [and]

くる → きた
くる → きて

来るくる // kuru // to come
来たきた // kita // came
来てきて // kite // come [and]

 

To recap, that's:

V た
V て


 1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs 
-う・-つ・-る → -った
-う・-つ・-る → -って

-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んだ
-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んで

-く → -いた
-く → -いて

-ぐ → -いだ
-ぐ → -いで

-す → -した
-す → -して

例外:いく → いった
例外:いく → いって


 2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs 
-る → -た
-る → -て


 3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs 
する → した
する → して

くる → きた
くる → きて


 

And, of course, here's the exact same quiz that you certainly aced in the last lesson, only this time you have to put verbs into their て-forms...

(No scrolling up to check the answers!)

01 買う(かう // kau // to buy
02 行く(いく // iku // to go
03 脱ぐ(ぬぐ // nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
04 押す(おす // osu // to push; to press
05 立つ(たつ // tatsu // to stand
06 死ぬ(しぬ // shinu // to die
07 遊ぶ(あそぶ // asobu // to play
08 飲む(のむ // nomu // to drink
09 座る(すわる // suwaru // to sit down
10 食べる(たべる // taberu // to eat
11 起きる(おきる // okiru // to get up; to wake up
12 する(suru // to do; to make
13 来る(くる // kuru // to come


⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 


In て-form, these verbs are:


01 買って(かって // katte // buy[and]
02 行って(いって // itte // go [and]
03 脱いで(ぬいで // nuide // take off [e.g. shoes] [and]
04 押して(おして // oshite // push [and]; press [and]
05 立って(たって // tatte // stand [and]
06 死んで(しんで // shinde // die [and]
07 遊んで(あそんで // asonde // play [and]
08 飲んで(のんで // nonde // drink [and]
09 座って(すわって // suwatte // sit down [and]
10 食べて(たべて // tabete // eat [and]
11 起きて(おきて // okite // get up; wake up [and]
12 して(shite // do; make [and]
13 来て(きて // kite // come [and]

 

Enough with the lists! Agggggh!

Or am I the only one that feels this way?

Let's look at some conversations instead. In them, you'll see just how many Japanese forms we've mastered so far.

Our examples below will contain the following verbs:


壊れる(こわれる // to break)will show up in the plain past tense, which is 壊れた(こわれた // broke).

開く(ひらく // to open)will be used in the plain negative, which is 開かない(ひらかない // don't open; won't open).

見せる(みせる // to show)is used in the て-form, becoming 見せて(みせて // show [and]).

できる(できる // to be able to do)is used in the plain negative, できない(できない // can't do), and the plain past, できた(できた // was able to do).

押す(おす // to push; to press)is used in the て-form, 押して(おして // push [and]; press [and]).

する(する // to do)is used in the て-form, して(して // do [and]). It also shows up as しちゃった(しちゃった // did [unfortunately]), which is an abbreviation of してしまった. We use the ~てしまった / ~ちゃった ending when an action was not desirable or intended. Check out our N4 lesson on this grammar for more info.

なる(なる // to become)shows up in て-form, なって(なって // become [and]).

行く(いく // to go)isn't conjugated at all!

来る(くる // to come)is used in the て-form, which you will recall is an irregular conjugation, 来て(きて // come [and]).

やる(やる // to do)and ある(ある // to be; to have)are not conjugated.

動く(うごく // to move)is used in the plain negative, giving us 動かない(うごかない // doesn't move; won't move).

死ぬ(しぬ // to die)is used in the plain past, 死んだ(しんだ // died).

Finally, 乾く(かわく // to become dry)is also used in the plain past, giving us 乾いた(かわいた // became dry).


Now, that is one intimidating list of verbs and conjugations, right? But most of it is stuff that we've already covered. If you take your time and go one word at a time, I think you'll be surprised at just how much you can understand (that is, if you have been reading the lessons in this course)...

*Note: All of the following sentences are in casual Japanese. We will be learning the necessary verb conjugations to make formal sentences very soon.

 

The other day, my mom was telling me that her cell phone wasn't working...

 Mom: 
ケータイ壊れた。アプリが開かない。
ケータイ こわれた。 アプリ が ひらかない。
My phone’s broken. This app won’t open.
Literally: “cell phone + broke. + app + が + doesn’t open / won’t open.”



Of course, I doubted this and asked...

 Me: 
見せて。
みせて。
Let me see it.
Literally: “show (and).”



She showed me that an app wouldn't open when she pressed on it, saying...

 Mom: 
ほら、できない。
ほら、 できない。
See? It doesn’t work.
Literally: “look (=I told you so), + cannot do.”



Immediately I noticed that she was pressing the smartphone screen way too hard, so I said...

 Me: 
軽く押してみて。
かるく おして みて。
Try pressing it lightly.
Literally: “lightly + try pressing (=press [and] + look [and]).”



And of course...

 Mom: 
あっ、できた!
あっ、 できた!
Oh, it worked!
Literally: “ah, + was able to do!”



 



The following is a long sentence, but I think you may be ready to attempt it...


今日は学校初日だから早起きして7時に家を出たけど、迷子になって結局遅刻しちゃった。
きょう は がっこう しょにち だ から はやおき して しちじ に いえ を でた けど、 まいご に なって けっきょく ちこく しちゃった。
Today was my first day of school, so I got up early and left the house at seven. But I got lost, and I ended up being late anyway.
Literally: “today + は + school + first day + だ + から (=because) + early rising + do (and) + house + を + left + けど (=but), + get lost (=lost child + に + become) (and) + after all / in the end + lateness + did (unfortunately).”



 




 Coworker: 
みんなで居酒屋行くんだけど、来る?
みんな で いざかや いく んだ けど、 くる?
Everyone’s going to an izakaya. Wanna come?
Literally: “everyone + で + izakaya + go + んだ + けど (=but), + come?”



 You: 
今日はやめとく。
きょう は やめとく。
I think I’ll pass today.
Literally: “today + は + (be smart and) not do.”
Note: やめとく is common abbreviation of やめておく. We use ~ておく when (smartly) doing something in advance or because of foresight. We have a JLPT lesson on this.



 Coworker: 
また?来てよ!どうせやることないでしょ?
また? きて よ! どうせ やる こと ない でしょ?
Again? Come with us! It’s not like you have anything else to do.
Literally: “again? + come (and) + よ! + anyhow + do + thing + don’t have / there isn’t + でしょ?”
Note: Agh! でしょ! Here, it is being used to make an assertion that the listener should agree with. We talk about でしょ in lots of other lessons, so let's not worry about it for now.



 You: 
あるよ。
ある よ。
Yes, I do.
Literally: “have / there is + よ.”



 Coworker: 
例えば?
たとえば?
Like what?
Literally: “for example?”



 You: 
んー、色々。
んー、 いろいろ。
Umm... Lots of stuff.
Literally: “uhh... + various.”



 Coworker: 
嘘つけ。
うそ つけ。
Liar.
Literally: “liar.”
Note: Technically 嘘つけ is the phrasal idiom 嘘をつけ (うそ を つけ), which literally means something like "lie + を + tell (=[command form])," but in translations it becomes "liar" in English. When you are not accusing a person of having just lied but rather describing them as a liar (e.g. for multiple instances of lying), you can use the noun 嘘つき (うそつき // liar).



 



You, Takeda, and I went out to karaoke after a long night of festivities. We drank, sang, and danced around until morning. Takeda couldn't last till morning, though. He lies unconscious on the couch of our karaoke booth. The following conversation ensues...

 Me: 
おい、武田。朝だよ。
おい、 たけだ。 あさ だ よ。
Hey, Takeda. It’s morning.
Literally: “hey, + Takeda. + morning + だ + よ.”



 You: 
動かないな。死んだ?
うごかない な。 しんだ?
He’s not moving. Is he dead?
Literally: “doesn’t move + な. + died?”



 Takeda: 
死んだって誰が?
しんだ って だれ が?
Who died?
Literally: “died + って + who + が?”
Note: Think of this って as a spoken quotation mark, putting the phrase before it into quotes.



 You: 
お前のことだよ。
おまえ の こと だ よ。
You. // We’re talking about you.
Literally: “you + の + thing + だ + よ.”



 Takeda: 
あー、喉乾いた!
あー、 のど かわいた!
Ahhh, I’m thirsty!
Literally: “ahhh, + throat + got dry / became dry!”


 



That was a seriously lengthy lesson. Sorry if it overwhelmed you a bit.

If you're going to focus on anything in this lesson in particular, focus on the conjugations of て-form, since you will have to have complete mastery over them to have even a basic conversation in Japanese.



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