Japanese て-form and Action Verbs

In order to make more complex sentences, you need to use verbs or adjectives other than their simplest dictionary form. In English, in general, you add “ly” to change adjectives to adverbs. However, for example, when you change “happy” to “happily,” you need to modify “happy” to “happi” before adding “ly” at the end of the word. Technically this kind of modification is called morphological changes.

In Japanese, a widely used morphological changes is the て-form (te-form). By making a verb or an adjective in its て-form, you are ready to “glue” the word with more unit of meanings.

て-form of Japanese Verbs

If you know how to conjugate Japanese verbs to their plain past form (た-form), you shouldn’t have any problems to conjugate verbs to their て-form, as the conjugation rules are identical.

る-verbs Ending with Replace with Example
→ て 食べる → 食べて
う-verbs Ending with Replace with Example
→ して 出す→ 出して
→ いて 書く→ 書いて
→ いで 泳ぐ→ 泳いで
る, う or つ → って 作る→ 作って
む, ぶ or ぬ → んで 飲む→ 飲んで
Irregular verbs Replace with Example
する → して 勉強する → 勉強して
くる → きて 持ってくる → 持ってきて

Verb+ている and Ongoing Actions

One of the easiest applications of て-form is to represent ongoing actions. You attach いる to the verb in て-form. It is equivalent to gerund (-ing) form in English.

Verb+ている and Resultant State

However, when the verb in use are in motions, such as 行く, 来る, 帰る or 出かける, its ている form does not imply an ongoing action. Instead, it represents a resultant state, meaning that the action is already completed. You may simply consider the て-form as a connector between the motion verb and the verb いる.

Tanaka-san has gone to Japan.
and he is there now.

In many other cases, the context or the nature of the verb implies that its ている form represents a resultant state.

I am married.
I am wearing a T-shirt.
Note that the action “wearing” has been completed.
Do you know?

Verb+ている and Habitual Actions

You may also use ている form to express repeated habitual actions.

Related Grammar Points