第26課: The Particle て

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 て for the and in "And, I saw him" or "dogs and cats do this," but its use is profoundly important.  

A resulting phrase with て is said to be in the けい. This is sadly not the easiest thing in Japanese, and there are many grammatical patterns that utilize it. So, you will continue to learn more about it in future lessons. 

The Conjunctive Particle て

     て attaches to the れんようけい of verbs and adjectives. The changes with ~た apply. There are no differences. 

 一段 食べ 五段 聞い する し 来る 来
 行く 行っ 形容詞 赤く 形容動詞 簡単 だ 

Usage Notes:

1. て may be で due to contraction rules for 五段ごだん verbs that end in certain sounds.

 泳ぐ (To swim) → 泳いで 読む (To read) → 読んで  さけぶ (To shout) → 叫んで

2. The て形 of だ is the contraction of に+て.

3. くて is not what connects adjectives. Only て is the ending. The く is part of the れんようけい for adjectives.

4. With a select number of verbs, て may simply follow the 終止形: 負う, 問う, etc. However, this is usually only seen in writing. It is not typically reflected in the speech of Tokyo speakers. 

5. The copula is used in its て form to list things with "to be." This applies to 形容動詞 as well. 

   て connects two or more phrases. て 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. ニュースを聞いて、びっくりした。
   I was surprised to hear the news.

2. この日本語の文章は複雑で、よく分かりませんでした。
    The Japanese was complicated, so I didn't understand it well. 

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

3. そのリンゴは赤くて、大きいです。
    The apple is red and big.

4. 日本語は簡単(かんたん)で、素晴(すば)らしいです。
    Japanese is easy and awesome.

5. 川田さんの(いえ)は新しくて、綺麗(きれい)ですね。
    Mrs. Kawada's house is new and pretty, isn't it?

6. 東京はにぎやかで面白おもしろい。
   Tokyo is lively and interesting.

7. このクラスは宿題(しゅくだい)が多くて、試験(しけん)も難しかったです。
    The class had a lot of homework, and the exams were difficult..

8. 彼は彼女の家に()って、手紙を(とど)けた。
    He stopped by her house and delivered a letter.

9. あの人は(やさ)しくて頭がいいです。
    That person is kind and smart.    

10. 立ち()まって(あた)りを見回(みまわ)す。 
   To stop and look around.

 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.

11a. ランスはフランスへ行って、セスは日本へ行って、アンドリューは中国(ちゅうごく)へ行きました。
11b. ランスはフランスへ、セスは日本へ、アンドリューは中国へ行きました。
11c. ランスはフランス、 セスは日本、アンドリューは中国へ行きました。
Lance went to France, Seth went to Japan, and Andrew went to China.

There are two possible negative ~て forms: ~ないで and ~なくて. ないで comes from ~なくて, and it means "without" as in without doing something. ~ないで may infer that you didn't do something expected of you. If you go to the vet "without your dog", that will be a big waste of time. ~なくて can mean "without" but refers to state--"being without." 

12. 辞書(じしょ)を{使わないで・引かないで}、手紙てがみいた。
      I wrote a letter without using a dictionary. 

13. ともだちがなくて、こまりました。
      My friend didn't come, and I was upset.

14. ()ないで待つ。
      Wait without sleeping.

15. 今日は電車(でんしゃ)()らないで、歩いてきました。
      I came by walking instead of riding the train today. 

More Examples

16. 私はひるはんを食べて、テレビを見て、音楽おんがくを聞いて、帰りました。
   I ate lunch, watched TV, listened to music, and came home.

17. 私は夏服(なつふく)()まって、(あき)(ふく)を出しました。
      I put up my summer clothes and got out my fall clothes. 

18. (さくら)の花が()って、若葉(わかば)が出ました。
      The cherry blossoms have scattered, and the leaves have appeared.

19. (はたら)いて、(つか)れた。
      I worked and got exhausted.

Listing Adjectives

As mentioned before, the method of listing adjectives involves ~て, and the means of conjugation are as follows. 

 古い (終止形・連体形) → 古くて 簡単な (連体形) →

The last adjective will end normally in the 終止形. If the adjectives are of different classes and there are only two adjectives, changing one to the 連体形 (which is in the chart) is not necessary. This is not the case for the predicate condition, and this is only really the case when a 形容詞 precedes a 形容動詞 when modifying a noun. Sometimes, though, you find that for whatever reason, two 形容詞 phrases can modify a noun without either changing. If in doubt, just list adjectives like below.  

20. かぜが強くて
      A cold day where the wind is strong 

21. 山田さんはきれい(やさ)です。
      Ms. Yamada is pretty and nice.

22. ジェシカさんはきれい親切(しんせつ)人です。
      Jessica is pretty and kind person.

23. 美しくて静か
      A beautiful, quiet woman

Word Note: Due to political correctness, the more formal term 女性(じょせい) is now more prevalent. Girl is typically 女の子. Man is 男. Male is 男性(だんせい). Boy is 男の子. The terms 男の人and 女の人 can also be used as the polite forms of "man" and "woman" respectively. 

24. 世界は素晴(すば)らしくて、おもしろい。
      The world is wonderful and interesting.

25. かるくて(かっこいい・スマート)なケータイがほしいです。
      I want a light and stylish cell phone.

Word Note: The word スマート is out of fashion at the moment and may never regain its power.  

26. 暑なりましたね。
      It's become hot, hasn't it?

~て Phrases Deemed as One Word

There are a few instances when ~て phrases result in single vocabulary items. In Ex. 27, treating the verb with ~て separately is not possible. This shows how fused set-phrases work. 

27a. 真意しんいを見てる。〇
27b. 真意を見ても取る。X
        To grasp the real sense. 

28. 選挙せんきょってる。
       To make one's debut in an election. 

29. (いそ)いで()って(かえ)す。
      To hurry and come back. 

Grammar Note: When ~て ends a sentence, it could be like "so..." with something implied after it. Or, it could be the final particle て.

Orthography Note: For verbs like 話す and 光る, using the 連用形 in this way means keeping the おくりがな. However, when the 連用形 results in a noun, you don't use the おくりがな. Thus, you get 話 (talk; conversation) and 光 (light).