sci.lang.japan FAQ / 2. Grammar / 2.1. Verbs

2.1.6. 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, "see", is mite, and the te form of yomu, "read", is yonde. The te form is used in forms like te iru, "be doing" and te shimau "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 2.1.2. What are group I and group II (also consonant and vowel) verbs?
iru, eru (vowel-stem verbs) ite, ete taberu tabete See 2.1.2. What are group I and group II (also consonant and vowel) verbs?
i adjective kute yasui (cheap) yasukute See 2.4.2. What is an adjective?
na adjective de kantan (simple) kantan de
Irregular formations (see 2.1.1. What Japanese verbs are irregular?)
suru (do) shite aisuru (love) aishite
kuru (come) kite - -
iku (go) itte - -
irassharu (be, polite) irashite - -
-masu ending mashite akemasu akemashite


The te form is used in requests with kure and kudasai. For example Tabete kudasai "Please eat (this)."

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

With the verb oku it means "to do in advance". O-bentō o tsukutte oita: "I've already made a boxed lunch". In speech, in this form the "e" often disappears, so tsukutte oita becomes tsukuttoita

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: "There are some characters written here".

With the verb shimau it implies something is completed: katazukete shimatta "I have finished tidying". It can also suggest a regretable situation: Watashi no kagi ga kiete shimatta: "My keys have disappeared". The form te shimau is often contracted to chimau or chau, and the de shimau form is shortened to jau or jimau in colloquial speech. See 8.2. What are the , verb endings?.

The te form is also used to join two sentences. Yasukute ii ne: "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: "Don't eat this", or te mo ii: "You can do this". For example, tabete mo ii: "You can eat it". The mo is often dropped, hence this becomes tabete ii.

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