How does the te form work?

The te form of a Japanese verb is the form which ends in te or de. For example, the te form of miru (見る), "see", is mite (見て), and the te form of yomu (読む), "read", is yonde (読んで). The te form is used in forms like te iru (〜ている), "be doing" and te shimau (〜てしまう) "finished doing".

The conjugation of the te form is similar to the conjugation of the past tense. The following table lists all of the possible conjugations.

Verb's final syllable Becomes Examples Te form Notes
Regular verbs
u tte tsukau (use) tsukatte
ku ite yaku (burn) yaite
gu ide oyogu (swim) oyoide
su shite shimesu (show) shimeshite
tsu tte matsu (wait) matte
nu nde shinu (die) shinde
bu nde yobu (call) yonde
mu nde yomu (read) yonde
ru (consonant-stem verbs) tte hashiru (run) hashitte See What are group I and group II (also consonant and vowel) verbs?
iru, eru (vowel-stem verbs) ite, ete taberu tabete See What are group I and group II (also consonant and vowel) verbs?
Adjectives
i adjective kute yasui (cheap) yasukute See What is an adjective?
na adjective de kantan (simple) kantan de
Irregular formations (see What Japanese verbs are irregular?)
suru (do) shite aisuru (love) aishite See What is a verb?
kuru (come) kite - -
iku (go) itte - -
irassharu (be, polite) irashite - -
-masu ending mashite akemasu akemashite

Uses of the te form

The te form is used in requests with kure (くれ) and kudasai (ください). For example tabete kudasai (食べてください) "Please eat (this)."

With the verb iru it can mean "to be doing": matte iru (待っている): "I am waiting" or "to do": shitte iru (知っている) means "I know". In speech, the "i" often disappears, so matte iru becomes matteru (待ってる) and shitte iru becomes shitteru (知ってる).

With the verb oku it means "to do in advance". O-bentō o tsukutte oita (お弁当を作っておいた): "I've already made a boxed lunch". In speech, in this form the "e" often disappears, so tsukutte oita becomes tsukuttoita (作っといた).

With the verb aru it forms a kind of passive. It is very common with the verb kaku, to write. Koko ni moji ga kaite aru (ここに文字が書いてある): "There are some characters written here".

With the verb shimau it implies something is completed: katazukete shimatta (片付けてしまった) "I have finished tidying". It can also suggest a regrettable situation: Watashi no kagi ga kiete shimatta (私の鍵が消えてしまった): "My keys have disappeared". The form te shimau is often contracted to chimau (ちまう) or chau (ちゃう), and the de shimau (〜でしまう) form is shortened to jau (〜じゃう) or jimau (〜じまう) in colloquial speech. See What are the , verb endings?

The te form is also used to join two sentences. Yasukute ii ne (安くていいね): "It's good that it's cheap". It is used with particles in formations such as te wa ikenai: "You must not ...". For example, tabete wa ikenai (食べてはいけない): "Don't eat this", or te mo ii (てもいい): "You can do this". For example, tabete mo ii (食べてもいい): "You can eat it". The mo is often dropped, hence this becomes tabete ii (食べていい).


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