Verb Conjugation #2: て (Te) Form (with PDF Chart)
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
To make the most of the information in this article, you should understand the differences between the three Japanese verb classes. If you would like to brush up on verb classes, go to Verb Conjugation#1: Japanese Verb Classes – The Basics.
How to Change Verbs Into the て (Te) Form
Conjugating Japanese verbs into their て form consists of changing the final syllable of their dictionary form. The irregular verbs—する (suru) and 来る（くる / kuru）are exceptions, as both syllables of these verbs are changed when you conjugate them.
The final syllable will simply become て, or it will become a two-syllable combination ending in て or で, depending on the final syllable and what class the verb belongs to.
Conjugating Ichidan (Class 2) Verbs
I'll start with ichidan verbs since they are very easy to conjugate. For any ichidan verb, all you need to do is change the final る syllable of the verb's dictionary form to て.
For example, the dictionary form of "eat" is 食べる (たべる / taberu). Therefore, itsて form is 食べて (tabete).
Conjugating Godan (Class 1) Verbs
Remembering how to conjugate godan verbs into their て form is complicated and will require some effort to memorize. This is because there are nine different syllables that godan verbs can end with (く, ぐ, む, ぶ, ぬ, う, つ, る, and す). Also, there are five different て endings that these are replaced with when you conjugate them (いて, いで, んで, って, and して). You can use the chart provided below to help you with this.
Conjugating Irregular (Class 3) Verbs
The て form of する is して.
The て form of 来る is 来て. (The pronunciation of the first syllable changes from く to き.)
Download this chart as a PDF file by clicking the link below.
Verb Conjugation (て)
Download PDF • 37KB
What Does the て Form Express?
The て form has many functions, and I've learned only a few of them so far (see below). A more comprehensive list can be found here.
The three most basic uses of the て form are (1) to make a request, (2) to connect verbs/verb phrases within one sentence, and (3) to say that you are currently doing something (similar to how the -ing form of verbs work in English).
Using the て Form to Make a Request
If the て form of a verb is found at the end of a sentence, it means the speaker is instructing someone to do something (but in a nice way). To increase the politeness level, you can add ください after the verb.
Using the て Form to Combine Verbs
If you want to express doing two or more things, you can list the verbs within one sentence. However, all but the last one will need to be conjugated into the て form.
Watashi wa ie o kaette bi–ru o nonde piza o tabete.
I'm going to go home, drink beer, and eat pizza.
In the example above, notice that there is no need to use a word equivalent to "and" between the verb phrases. The meaning of "and" is carried by the conjugation of the first two verbs.
Using the て Form to Say What You Are Doing Right Now
Often, you will want to say you are doing something right now (e.g., "I am speaking"), as opposed to saying you do something in general (e.g., "I speak"). In this case, you need to convert the verb into its て form and then add いる/います.
Watashi wa nihongo o benkyoushiteiru.
I'm studying Japanese.
Nani no hon o yondeimasu ka.
What book are you reading?
For a full explanation on the て+いる construction, check out How to Say You Are Currently Doing Something in Japanese (Sentence Patterns #5). Also, you can practice reading sentences containing this construction at Japanese Reading Practice #2 (JLPT N5): ケーキを作っている.