365 - て (reason, cause)

Hey there everyone!

Long time no... see (figuratively speaking).

How y'all doing today? I bet you just can't wait to learn some Japanese grammar!
Well, do not worry, I'll do my best to make it fun.

So, little, innocent て is up and about, ready to help you explain to your boss why you couldn't make it to work on time, or why you couldn't get your assignment done in time...
Need I say more about how useful this bugger is?

て or で is used in a sentence to explain the reason or cause for something that did or did not occur.

The pattern is basically:

Reason / cause + て or で + something happened as a result of that.

Like this:

パソコンが壊れて仕事ができません。
パソコン が こわれて しごと が できません。
The computer is broken, so (I) cannot work.
Literally: "Computer + が + broken (and) + work + が + cannot do"

Although my daily experience is more like...

Another good example is:

大雪電車が止まった。
おおゆき で でんしゃ が とまった。
The train stopped due to heavy snowfall.
Literally: "heavy snow + で + train + が + stopped."


Now I want to make some important points here.

1. Observe that, as in the examples above, て is used after verbs and で is used after nouns. Simple, easy rule.

2. With verbs, you can just take the -て form and leave it just like that. The て at the end will simply take up the role of introducing the reason/cause (if used for that purpose in the sentence).

3. Any expressions of the speaker's volition or that appeal to the listener cannot be used at the end of the sentence.*

*Note: This is one of the biggest differences between て/で and から (because)
With から you can appeal to the listener:

お願いだから、助けて!
おねがい だ から、 たすけて!
I'm begging (asking) you, please help me!
Literally: "Ask + so + save."

With て/で, it's more about things as they are, no wishful thinking.

You can still convey emotion through it, though. You can express gratitude, regret, worry, and such.

Here are some common phrases that use this grammar point:

遅くなって、ごめんなさい。
おそく なって、 ごめんなさい。
Sorry I'm late.
Literally: "Late + become (and), + sorry"

And...

手伝ってくれて、ありがとうございます。
てつだって くれて、 ありがとうございます。
Thank you for your help.
Literally: "Help + offer (and), + thank you”

And you also might have heard...

びっくりさせて、ごめんね。
びっくり させて、 ごめん ね。
Sorry I startled you
Literally: "surprise / startle + make (and) + sorry + ね."

And...

誘ってくれて、ありがとう。
さそって くれて、 ありがとう。
Thank you for inviting me.
Literally: "invite (and) + thank you"


We can also do this with the て-form of i-adjectives:

最近は野菜が高くて大変です。
さいきん は やさい が たかくて たいへん です。
Vegetables are expensive lately, and I'm having a hard/difficult time.
Literally: "lately + は + vegetables + が + expensive (and) + difficult + です."

Here it is used with a noun:

ひったくりにあったとき、恐怖で何もできなかった。
ひったくり に あった とき、 きょうふ で なにも できなかった。
The time I came across a purse snatcher, I was so afraid, I couldn't do anything.
Literally: "purse snatcher + に + met + time, + fear + で + nothing + couldn't do."

*Note: As always, expressing things in 'natural' Japanese makes them sound vague in the translation. Although the sentence above directly translates to "meeting a purse-snatcher," this is not 会う (あう) like "meet (a friend)," but 遭う (あう) like "meet (with a bad experience)." In other words, it implies that you met the thief while he was "on the job" --- thus you got robbed.

Speaking of difficult times, here's one last example:

雨が1週間も続いて、洗濯物が乾かなくて困った。
あめ が いっしゅうかん も つづいて、 せんたくもの が かわかなくて こまった。
It kept raining for a whole week, and I had a hard time because the laundry wouldn't dry.
Literally: "Rain + が + one week + even + continue + て + laundry + が + wouldn't dry + hard time."

One last thing: Again, in comparison with から, know that using て/で presents a weaker connection between event and effect. With から, you get a feeling of this BECAUSE that.

With て/で, it's more like it so happened that this led to that; it is how the events unfolded.

And if you're anything like me and you want to find a way of making excuses that sound as non-excusey as possible, then て/で is the way to go. Using て/で in the sentence makes the event and its effect feel like they are ever-so-seamlessly woven together in the intricate pattern of causality. Alas! One can only feel wonder in front of all the unfolding events and all the planets that aligned and subsequently lead to my finger gently tap the snooze button for the 11th time this morning!

So long, and see you next time!


This lesson was written by Adriana, a guest contributor.





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