Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Japanese Verbs ~て (~Te) form

Most "learn japanese" web sites proceed to a ~te form(~て)(or some call it ~te base or base 6) right after the dictionary form. Some say "If there is one type of verb conjugation to learn and learn extremely well it would be this".

I feel bit guilty (or guil~te :) for ignoring it for so long. So, what is the ~て form/base?

Surprisingly, most sources tend to avoid direct definition of ~ て, saying something like:
  • "The -te form of a verb which does not have a tense or mood combines with other verb forms."
  • "It does not indicate tense by itself, however it combines with other verb forms to create other tenses."
  • "The ~て form of a Japanese verb is used when the verb has some kind of connection to the following words."
Fundamentally dissatisfied with such a "negative" definition, I tried to figure out what ~て IS rather than what it IS NOT. So here is what I found:

~て form definition / usage


The ~て form has the same meaning as continuous tenses in English that use the auxiliary verbs am, are, is, was and were:
  • I am riding the train.
  • I was riding the train.
  • He is talking to a friend.
  • He was talking to a friend.
Continuous Actions
Actions that occur in the present or occurred in the past. The ~て form has the same meaning as the English continuous tense:
  • I am watching television.
  • I am listening to music.
  • I was doing my homework.
  • I was eating with a friend.
Incomplete tasks
You're left with a sense an action not taking place:
  • I haven't done any studying for the test.
  • I haven't done the homework yet.
This form may also be used to describe a habitual activity.
  • I read the USA Today newspaper.
Stative vs Non-stative verbs
Much like English, there are verbs that describe a state of the subject, rather than an action. These type of verbs are called stative. You may want to think of these as actions that started in the past, arrived to a state, and this state persists to the present.
  • The library is open.
  • ~ has come, has gone, has returned
There are few other cases where ~て is in use (most likely will be discussed later).

~て form conjugation

The conjugation of the ~て form is similar to the conjugation of the past tense.

Since ~ください kudasai (please) is one of the most useful ~て endings, one that is indispensable for polite and proper speech, I have decided to learn it first, along with the ~て conjugation.

To say "please + verb" form you add~てください (te+kudasai) to the verb stem. ~て (te) plus ください (kudasai) someimes called Polite Affirmative . So when using "te+kudasai" you politely ask/allow/command your counterpart to do/proceed (with)something.

Group 1: ~ U ending verbs (godan)

to speak(話す) hanasu はな hanashimasu はなします  
hanashite はなして hanashitekudasai はな
to write(書く) kaku kakimasuきます
kaiteいて kaitekudasaiいてください
to listen (聞く) kiku kikimasuきます
kiiteいて kiitekudasaiいてください
to wait(待つ) matsu machimasuちます
matteって mattekudasaiってください
to drink(飲む)momimasu のみま nomimashimasu のみまします
nomimashite のみまして nomimashitekudasai のみましてください

Group 2: ~ Iru and ~ Eru ending verbs (yodan)

to wear (着る) kiru kimasuます
kite kitekudasaiてください
to see (見る) miru mimasuます
mite mitekudasaiてください
to get up (起きる) okiru おき okimasu おきます
okite おき okitekudasai おきてください
to get off (降りる) oriru おり orimasu おります
orite おり oritekudasai おりてください
to believe(信じる) shinjiru しんじ shinjimasu しんじます
shinjite しんじ shinjitekudasai しんじてください

As always, yodan is a snap.

Group 3: Irregular Verbs くる (kuru) and ~する (~suru)

to come (来る) kuru kimasuます
kite kitekudasaiてください
to do (する) suru shimasuます
shite shitekudasaiてください
to study(勉強する)benkyou-suru べんきょうする benkyou-shimasu べんきょうします
benkyou-shite べんきょうし benkyou-shitekudasai べんきょうしてください

I'll be digging both ~て (that is in wide use) and ~kudasai (that comes with other verb forms also) in my next posts.

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