N5 Grammar – てけい (tekei), the te-form

Welcome everyone, this is Mac with another N5 Grammar Lesson from JLPT Boot Camp. In the last episode, we learned about how to express changes in states. Today, we are going to learn how to use the て form. We will look at a few, very short exchanges from our friends Matt and Yu. Let’s give it a try.

Conversation 1 (0:24)

Yu is at her house, talking to her father. She is leaving to meet Matt. They are speaking casually.

Yu:    いってきます。
            Itte kimasu.
           I’ll be back.

Dad: いって らっしゃい。
            Itte           rasshai.
            Have a good day!

This is a very common exchange in Japanese when you leave the house. Let’s break it down, いって, the て-form of 行く, to go, and then きます, the polite non-past form of 来る, to come. All together, Yu is literally saying “go and come”, but we can think of this as “I’ll be back”.

Her dad responds with いって, the て-form of 行く, to go, and then らっしゃい, which is actually the command form of いらっしゃる, honorable to go or come. So, in a way, Yu’s dad is commanding Yu to go and honorably come, but this is just a set phrase that can be translated “have a nice day!” or “have a good one!”.

Notice that the first い is missing from いらっしゃる when used in this form. This is very common in spoken Japanese. If the verb following the て-form starts with い, it is often omitted to make it easier to say.

Yu was using the て-form. To form this, all you have to do is take the casual past form and switch out た for て or だ for で. For example, if we take the verb 食べる, change it to the casual past 食べた. We can then take the た off, add て, and get 食べて, the て-form. For 飲む, the past is 飲んだ so the て form would be 飲んで.

Now, Yu was using the て-form to link a sequence of events together. You can do this with any two or more verbs. It is commonly used with verbs of motion, like 行く, 来る, or かえる. For example, you can say the following:

ピザを もってきました。
Pizao       mottekimashita.
(I) brought pizza.

Notice that these two things are kind of happening at the same time. You held the pizza and came at the same time. Also, notice that the て-form does not have a tense. The last verb in the sequence dictates the tense of all the verbs. If the last verb is in the past tense, then both actions happened in the past.

Can you give it a try with a sequence of events? Can you say “(I) ate breakfast and went to the park.” in polite Japanese? Remember, park in Japanese is こうえん.

あさごはんを べて こうえんに きました。
Asagohan’o        tabete      kouenni          ikimashita.
(I) ate breakfast and went to the park.


Conversation 2 (2:38)

Let’s meet up with Matt and Yu who are on their way to Kyoto on the train. Again this is casual.

Yu:    リンゴを とって。
               Ringo’o       totte.
              Give me that apple.

Matt:   ええ 、このリンゴが べたいよ。
               Ee,           konoringoga      tabetaiyo.
              No, (I) want to eat this apple.

Yu:    電車でんしゃで おおきいこえで はなさないで。
               Denshade ookiikoede      hanasanaide.
              Don’t speak with a loud voice on the train.

Matt:   すみません。

Breaking that down, リンゴ, apple, を, the object marking particle, and then とって, the て-form of とる, to lend. So, Yu is literally saying “take me that apple” or basically, “give me that apple”.

Matt responds with いいえ, no, このリンゴ, this apple, が, the subject marking particle, 食べたい, want to eat, and finally よ, a particle used for emphasis. So all together, he is saying “no, (I) want to eat this apple”. Notice again that we are using the が particle here to mark the object because this sentence is expressing a state.

Yu responds to him, 電車, train, で, a particle used to mark the location of an action, 大きい, big, こえ, voice, で, used here to mark the method, and finally 話さないで, the negative て-form of 話す, to speak. All together, she is saying “Don’t speak with a loud voice on the train”.

Matt finally says すみません, sorry.

Yu was using the negative て form, which is used to tell people what not to do. This form is not used to link verbs together. It is only used for commands like the one in the conversation. To form it, just take the casual negative form of a verb and add で.

Commands are another common use of the て-form. In polite form, we usually put ください after the verb. So, Yu could have said “とって ください” to be more polite.

Let’s try that now. Let’s say “please be quiet” in polite Japanese. “Be quiet” in Japanese is “しずかに する”.

しずかに して ください。
Shizukani  shite     kudasai.
Be quiet, please.

Exactly! To form the て-form you first change the verb to the casual past, then replace た with て. In the case of する, we change it to した, then to して.

Let’s try a negative example this time. Can you say “please don’t run” in polite Japanese? “To run” in Japanese is “はしる”.

はしらないで ください。
Hashiranaide    kudasai.
Don’t run, please.

Exactly! Good work.

Conversation 3 (5:25)

Let’s go back to Matt and Yu one last time.

Matt:        なにを しているの。
                     Nanio shiteiruno.
                    What are you doing?

Yu:   ねこに リンゴを あげているの。
                    Nekoni    ringo’o       ageteiruno.
                   (I) am giving my cat (a bite of my) apple.

Matt:         ねこを つれてきたの。
                     Neko’o    tsuretekitano.
                    (You) brought (your) cat?

Yu:   もちろん、ねこは 電車でんしゃが すきだから。
                    Mochiron,  nekowa   denshaga  sukidakara.
                   Of course, cats love trains.

Breaking that down, 何, what, を, the object marker, している, ている form of する, and finally の, the casual question marker. All together, Matt is asking “What are you doing?”.

Yu responds with ねこ, cat, に, a particle marking the indirect object, リンゴ, apple, を, the object marking particle, and finally あげている, the ている form of あげる, to give. And finally の a casual way to mark a reason. Altogether, she is saying “(I) am giving my cat some apple”.

Matt responds with ねこ, cat, を, the object marking particle, もって, the て-form of つれる, to accompany, and finally, きた, the casual past form of くる, to come. All together, he is saying “(You) brought (your) cat?”.

Yu responds, もちろん, of course, ねこ, cat, は, the topic marking particle, 電車, train, が, the subject marking particle, すき, liked, and finally から, because. All together, she is saying “Of course, cats love trains”. Yu seems to have an interesting insight into cats.

Matt and Yu were using the ている form, which is used to express what someone is doing now or the current state of something. To form it, we simply put いる after the て-form. Let’s use it to express a state. Can you say “(I) live in Kyoto.” in polite Japanese? “To live” is “すむ” in Japanese.

京都きょうとに すんでいます
Kyotoni   sundeimasu.
(I) live in Kyoto.

Exactly! You might think we need to use the で particle here because an action seems to be taking place in Kyoto. However, we are expressing the state of living in Kyoto and aren’t performing an action exactly.

How about the negative? We wouldn’t use the negative て-form, that’s just for commands. Instead, we need to change いる into the negative form. In polite Japanese, we would say いません for the negative non-past. So, can you now say “(I) don’t live in Kyoto” in polite Japanese?

京都きょうとに すんでいません
Kyotoni   sundeimasen.
(I) don’t live in Kyoto.

Exactly! Are you ready for a pop quiz? I’ll give you the English, can you translate it into Japanese?

Pop Quiz (8:37)

Can you tell me the following in Japanese?

Please open the window. 

Hint: Window in Japanese is まど, and to open is あける.


まどを あけて ください。
Mado’o   akete       kudasai.

For “Please open the window”, we would say “まどを あけて ください” in polite Japanese. Going over that, まど, window, を, the object marking particle, あけて, the て-form of あける, to open, and finally ください, please.

Please don’t shut the door.

Hint: To shut in Japanese is しめる.


ドアを しめないで ください。
Doao      shimenaide    kudasai.

For “Please don’t shut the door”, we would say “ドアを しめないで ください” in polite Japanese. Going over that quickly, ドア, door (especially a western-style door), しめないで, the negative て-form of しめる to shut, and finally ください, please.

(I)’m eating pizza.


ピザを べて います。
Pizao       tabete      imasu.

For “(I)’m eating pizza”, we would say “ピザを 食べて います” in polite Japanese. Going over that, ピザ, pizza, を, the object marker, and finally 食べています, ている-form of 食べる, to eat.

(I)’m going to drink beer and play video games.

Hint: play video games is テレビゲームを する in Japanese.


ビールを んで テレビゲームを します。
Biiruo          nonde     terebigeemuo        shimasu.

For “(I)’m going to drink beer and play video games”, we would say “ビールを 飲んで テレビゲームを します” in polite Japanese. Going over that quickly, ビール, beer, を, the object marking particle, 飲んで, the て-form of 飲む, to drink, テレビゲーム, video games, を, the object marking particle, and finally します, the polite non-past form of する, to do.


Today, we took a look at the て-form, which has 3 basic uses. It can be used as a command to someone by adding ください, which can be dropped in more casual conversation with friends. We also learned that we can link a sequence of events together with the て-form and that the last verb in the sequence determines the tense of the whole sequence.

We also learned about making negative commands by taking the casual negative form and adding で. This form is used to tell someone to not do something. And finally, we learned about adding いる to the て-form to express states.

That’s it for this episode. For notes and more practice with the grammar point, stop by the JLPT Boot Camp courses site. There you can find quizzes, study guides for this grammar point, and every grammar point covered in the videos. You can also get all of your questions answered you might have. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

Cover of the JLPT N5 Study Guide The JLPT Study Guide for the N5 is now available at Amazon. Packed with exercises to help you master all the grammar points needed for the test, this is a must have study guide for anyone preparing for the N5. It also has reading and listening strategies and practice exercises so you can hone those skills before the exam. Once you’ve finished the book, there are 3 practice tests to check your level and 100s of audio flashcards you can use anywhere to review what you learned.

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