Japanese Verb Tenses: The Te-Form

By Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch

Learn the te-form in Japanese, an important verb tense. Also, the conjugation for u-verbs, ru-verbs, and irregular verbs are covered. The conjugations are shown with the Japanese characters (hiragana) as well as in romanji for new learners.

Ru-verbs

The-form in Japanese is essential in grammar, and is used in multiple occasions (we will learn about all of them in the next lesson). Japanese Language The ru-verbs () are the easiest to form in the -form. Let's use たべる (taberu), the word for “to eat":

たべる (taberu) → たべて (tabete)

First, we remove the , then add the ending. This pattern works for all ru-verbs; however, the endings change with u-verbs and irregular verbs.

U-verbs

U-verbs have different -form endings that vary on the ending syllable. For example, an u-verb can end with an (u), (tsu), (ru), (mu), (bu), (nu), (ku), (gu) or(su). Let's go over each of the endings by group:

, and endings

When we form the -form with an u-verb that ends with , or , we drop the final syllable and add って (tte). For example:

あう → あって (au → atte)

To meet

まつ → まって (matsu → matte)

To wait

とる → とって (toru → totte)

To take (pictures)

Remember, some verbs that end with る can be u-verbs, so know which type of verb it is before conjugating. When first learning these verbs, it may help to keep a list or make flashcards with u-verbs that end with る.

, and endings

The second group of u-verbs for -form conjugation are verbs that end with either , or . Like other -form conjugations, we drop the final syllable, except the ending for these verbs are んで (nde). For example:

よむ → よんで (yomu → yonde)

To read

あそぶ → あそんで (asobu → asonde)

To play

しぬ → しんで (shinu → shinde)

To die

endings

When an u-verb ends with a , the -form ending is いて (ite). For example:

かく → かいて (kaku → kaite)

To write

endings

When an u-verb ends with a , the -form ending is いで (ide). For example:

およぐ → およいで (oyogu → oyoide)

To swim

Irregular Verbs

Certain verbs do not follow the ru-verb or u-verb patterns: these are the irregular verbs in Japanese. Let's go over the conjugations for the irregular verbs くる and いく:

くる → きて (kuru → kite)

To come

いく → いって (iku → itte)

To go

Since these are irregular verbs, we need to memorize their -form conjugations.