How to use conjugated Japanese verbs

Have you ever wondered how to connect two Japanese sentences? Would you like to make polite requests in Japanese? Would you like to know how to say "I need you to do something for me" in Japanese? If yes, since Japanese is an agglutinative language, you will need to know how to conjugate Japanese verbs. All right let's dive into the details. This article talks about grammar that is a bit above the beginner level, so in case you have just started, I highly recommend you to check out my previous articles on the site. On the other hand, you don't necessarily need to know kanijs (Japanese characters), because I will write their readings using hiraganas. Naturally the more kanji you know the better it is.

Te-form of the Japanese verbs is very important when learning about advanced structures

If we wanted to classify Japanese language we could say it is an "agglutinative language". It means it derives complex words, by changing their endings, or strictly speaking attaching different morphemes to the stems without changing their spelling or phonetics.

As such if you would like to use past tense, potential form or even if you need to make a polite request you will need to study the conjugation of Japanese verbs.

The verbs in Japanese have various forms, but fortunately there is only a few of them. In the same time though, what makes it difficult to learn the conjugation is that Japanese verbs can be classified into three big groups. Before learning the conjugation rules you will need to learn how to classify Japanese verbs into these groups. This is because the conjugation rules are dependent on the group of the given verb.

You have to learn the classification of Japanese verbs prior to the te-form

You can find these rules in one of my previous articles but for the sake of clarity let me do some review.

  • Rule 1: verbs that don't end in 'る' belong to the group 1
  • Rule 2: verbs ending in 'る' with a high vowel (e,i) before 'る', belong to group 2
  • Rule 3: verbs ending in 'る' with a low vowel (a,u,o) before 'る', belong to group 1

Somebody who has not seen this before might not understand it's importance. This article will hopefully give you the answer.

In case you would like to connect two Japanese sentences saying something like "I have done this, then I went here and so on" you will need to use the form that is called the "て(te)"-form. When learning advanced Japanese grammatical structures this form will be incredibly important. As such you will need to concentrate on this lesson and only move onto the further ones if you are confident in the rules.

I will be using the "dictionary form" of the given Japanese verb to explain the following structures. There are some learners out there who have learned the "masu"-form first instead of the dictionary form. That is also an approach, and not necessarily mistaken, thus if I make your learning process more difficult I would like to apologize. For me conjugating Japanese verbs based on their dictionary form is easier than using their "masu" form.

And now let's see how to create the te-form(て形) of Japanese verbs based on the group they belong to:
  • Rule for group 1: You need to change the final hiragana based on the following list:
  • る、う、つ ー> って
  • む、ぶ、ぬ ー> んで
  • ぐ ー> いで
  • す ー> して
  • く  ー> いて

For example:

  • 送る(おくる) ー 送って (to send)
  • 買う(かう) ー 買って (to buy)
  • 打つ(うつ) ー 打って (to hit)
  • 飲む(のむ) ー 飲んで (to drink)
  • 死ぬ(しぬ) ー 死んで (to die)
  • 脱ぐ(ぬぐ) ー 脱いで (to take off)
  • 貸す(かす) ー 貸して (to lend)
  • 書く(かく) ー 書いて (to write)

  • Rule for group 2: You need to replace 'る' with 'て' at the end of the verb

For example:

  • 食べる(たべる) ー たべて (to eat)

  • Rule for group 3:
  • する ー して
  • 来る (くる) ー 来て (きて)
Read more >> Conjugation of Japanese adjectives and classifications

You can make requests in many ways when speaking Japanese, however always pay attention to the level of politeness when you do so

For me rules without examples are like cars without gas. Therefore I will give you one example for each of the rules.

A curious learner could ask: What is the te-form for? So far I have only talked about dry grammatical rules and gave you some examples, which is definitely far from useful. So let me show you a few cases when you have to use the te-form when speaking Japanese.

If you would like to make a request in Japanese you will need to use this form. There are many ways to do it. In case you are familiar with these you will have to go and actually use them. There are written rules for the use cases, but my experience was that it is the best to use them and see the reaction. If you are told not to use it like that, then don't use it. If nobody looks at you as if you were an alien, then you are close to perfect.

Common way to make a request in Japanese: