第26課: The Particle Te

The particle te て is the most important conjunctive particle in Japanese. Conjunctive particles correspond to words like "and" and "but." As you will see, you cannot use te て for the and in "And, I saw him" or "dogs and cats do this," but its use is profoundly important. This particle will be seen constantly in various grammatical patterns. For now, though, we'll learn about how it's used when it's by itself. 

The Conjunctive Particle Te

Conjugating with the particle te て isn't particularly difficult, but conjugating is done differently depending on what part of speech you're using. In the table below, you will see the affirmative and negative te て forms for each independent conjugatable part of speech. 

 Part of Speech Example Verb Affirmative Negative
 Ichidan Verbs ・Miru 見る
 ・Taberu 食べる
 Godan Verbs ・Kau 買う (To buy)
 ・Iu 言う (To say)
 ・ 問う (To question)
 ・Kaku 書く (To write)
 ・Kiku 聞く (To listen)
 ・Iku 行く (To go)
 ・Kagu 嗅ぐ (To sniff)
 ・Katsu 勝つ (To win)
 ・Shiru 知る (To know)
 ・Shinu 死ぬ (To die)
 ・Yobu 呼ぶ (To call)
 ・Yomu 読む (To read)    
 Auxiliaries ・-masu ます ・~まして 
 Irregular ・Kuru 来る (To come)
 ・Suru する (To do)
 Adjectives ・Atarashii 新しい (New)
 ・Ii/yoi 良い (Good)
 Adj. Nouns Kantan da 簡単だ (Easy) ・かんたんで ・かんたんではなくて
 Copula Da だ (To be) ・で ・ではなくて

Conjugation Notes

1. With a select number of verbs such as tō 問う (to question) , the particle te て simply follows the verb. Very few verbs do this, and whenever we come across them, this will be brought up.
2. Note how the conjugations for the affirmative forms are, in the case of verbs, made exactly how the past tense is made, utilizing the exact same sound changes.
3. As always, de wa では can be contracted to ja じゃ. 
4. As implied by the chart, the polite affirmative forms of verbs can be put in the te て form. 
Ex. Suru する → shimashite しまして.

 Usages of the Particle Te

1. The first and most important role of the particle te て is to connect two clauses. In doing so, it can also implicitly indicate reason for feelings, states, and/or the past. However, the action in the latter part(s) can't contain volition. 

1. ニュースを()いて、びっくりした。
Nyūsu wo kiite, bikkuri shita. 
I was surprised to hear the news.

2. この日本語(にほんご)文章(ぶんしょう)複雑(ふくざつ)で、よく()かりませんでした。
Kono Nihongo no bunshō wa fukuzatsu de, yoku wakarimasendeshita.
The Japanese was complicated, so I didn't understand it well. 

2. The particle te てcan list actions or qualities, and indicate a method for action (like putting sugar in tea and drinking it).

3. そのリンゴは(あか)くて、(おお)きいです。
Sono ringo wa akakute, ōkii desu.
The apple is red and big.

4. 日本語(にほんご)簡単(かんたん)で、素晴(すば)らしいです。
Nihongo wa kantan de, subarashii desu. 
Japanese is easy and awesome.

5. 川田(かわだ)さんの(いえ)(あたら)しくて、綺麗(きれい)ですね。
Kawada-san no ie wa atarashikute, kirei desu ne.
Mrs. Kawada's house is new and pretty, isn't it?

6. 東京(とうきょう)(にぎ)やかで面白(おもしろ)い。
Tōkyō wa nigiyaka de omoshiroi.
Tokyo is lively and interesting.

7. このクラスは宿題(しゅくだい)(おお)くて、試験(しけん)(むずか)しかったです。
Kono kurasu wa shukudai ga okute, shiken mo muzukashikatta desu.
The class had a lot of homework, and the exams were difficult.

8. (かれ)彼女(かのじょ)(いえ)()って、手紙(てがみ)(とど)けた。
Kare wa kanojo no ie ni yotte, tegami wo todoketa.
He stopped by her house and delivered a letter.

9. あの(ひと)(やさ)しくて(とう)がいいです。
Ano hita wa yasashikute atama ga ii desu.
That person is kind and smart.    

10. ()()まって(あた)りを見回(みまわ)す。 
Tachidomatte atari wo mimawasu.
To stop and look around.

11. (かぜ)(つよ)くて(さむ)()
Kaze ga tsuyokute samui hi
cold day where the wind is strong 

12. 山田(やまだ)さんはきれい(やさ)です。
Yamada-san wa kirei de yasashii desu.
Ms. Yamada is pretty and nice.

13. ジェシカさんはきれい親切(しんせつ)人です。
Jeshika-san wa kirei de, shinsetsu na hito desu.
Jessica is pretty and kind person.

14. (うつく)くて(しず)女性(じょせい)
Utsukushikute shizuka na josei
beautiful, quiet woman

15. 世界(せかい)素晴(すば)らしくて面白(おもしろ)い。
Sekai wa subarashikute, omoshiroi.
The world is wonderful and interesting.

16. (かる)くて{かっこいい・スマート}なケータイがほしいです。
Karukute [kakko-ii/sumāto] na kētai ga hoshii desu.
I want a light and stylish cell phone.

17. (あつ)なりましたね。
Atsuku narimashita ne.
It's become hot, hasn't it?

 Verb Deletion

What if you are just repeating the same verb over and over again? You can delete all but the last, and you can even delete the particle that goes with it except in the last clause.

18a. ランスはフランスへ()って、セスは日本(にほん)()って、サムは中国(ちゅうごく)()きました。
18b. ランスはフランスへ、セスは日本(にほん)へ、サムは中国(ちゅうごく)()きました。
18c. ランスはフランス、 セスは日本(にほん)、サムは中国(ちゅうごく)へ行きました。
18a. Ransu wa Furansu e itte, Sesu wa Nihon e itte, Samu wa Chūgoku e ikimashita.
18b. Ransu wa Furansu e, Sesu wa Nihon e, Samu wa Chūgoku e ikimashita.
18c. Ransu wa Furansu, Sesu wa Nihon, Samu wa Chūgoku e ikimashita.  
Lance went to France, Seth went to Japan, and Sam went to China.

Negative Te て Forms 

There are two possible negative te て forms: -naide ないで and -nakute なくて. -naide ないで means "without" as in "without doing something," whereas -nakute なくて simply conjoins two clauses (in line with the usages of te て explained above), with the first happening to be in the negative. Note that only verbs are capable of being used with -naide ないで.

 Part of Speech Example Verb -nakute なくて -naide ないで
 Ichidan Verbs ・Miru 見る
 ・Taberu 食べる
 Godan Verbs ・Kau 買う (To buy)
 ・Iu 言う (To say)
 ・ 問う (To question)
 ・Kaku 書く (To write)
 ・Kiku 聞く (To listen)
 ・Iku 行く (To go)
 ・Kagu 嗅ぐ (To sniff)
 ・Katsu 勝つ (To win)
 ・Shiru 知る (To know)
 ・Shinu 死ぬ (To die)
 ・Yobu 呼ぶ (To call)
 ・Yomu 読む (To read)    
 Irregular ・Kuru 来る (To come)
 ・Suru する (To do)
 Adjectives ・Atarashii 新しい (New)
 ・Ii/yoi 良い (Good)
 Adj. Nouns Kantan da 簡単だ (Easy) ・かんたんではなくて 
 Copula Da だ (To be) ・ではなくて 

19. 辞書(じしょ)を{使(つか)わないで・()かないで}、手紙(てがみ)()いた。
Jisho wo [tsukawanaide/hikanaide], tegami wo kaita.
I wrote a letter without using a dictionary. 

20. (とも)だちが()なくて、(こま)りました。
Tomodachi ga konakute, komarimashita.
My friend didn't come, and I was upset.

21. ()ないで()つ。
Nenaide matsu.
Wait without sleeping.

22. 今日(きょう)電車(でんしゃ)()らないで、(ある)いてきました。
Kyō wa densha ni noranaide, aruite kimashita. 
I came by walking instead of riding the train today. 

Curriculum Note: There is some considerable overlap between these two forms. Because of this, this section is scheduled to become its own lesson in the not too distant future. 

More Examples

23. (わたし)(ひる)(はん)()べて、テレビを()て、音楽(おんがく)()いて、(かえ)りました。
Watashi wa hirugohan wo tabete, terebi wo mite, ongaku wo kiite, kaerimashita. 
I ate lunch, watched TV, listened to music, and came home.

24. (わたし)夏服(なつふく)をしまって、(あき)(ふく)()しました。
Watashi wa natsufuku wo shimatte, aki no fuku wo dashimashita.
 I put up my summer clothes and got out my fall clothes. 

25. (さくら)(はな)()って、若葉(わかば)()ました。
Sakura no hana ga chitte, wakaba ga demashita. 
The cherry blossoms have scattered, and the leaves have appeared.

26. (はたら)いて、(つか)れた。
Hataraite, tsukareta.
I worked and got exhausted.

Te て Phrases Deemed as One Word

There are a few instances when the particle te て phrases result in single vocabulary items.

27. 真意(しんい)()()る。
Shin'i wo mite-toru.
To grasp the real sense. 

28. 選挙(せんきょ)()って()る。
Senkyo ni utte-deru.
To make one's debut in an election. 

29. (いそ)いで()って(かえ)す。
Isoide totte-kaesu.
To hurry and come back.