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The Te Form Song

The Te-Form Song. What now?? A good question. This is a handy little mnemonic taught to me by my own teacher way back when I was still a beginning student of Japanese. It helped me immensely, so now I’m passing it on to you!

Watch the above video first. It’s an old one of my Gakuranman videos, but it explains the basics of the Te-Form pretty well.

When you’re starting out in Japanese it can be tough to remember how verbs change, so learn this little song and you can always sing it inside your head when you get stuck. I found myself doing exactly this during my GCSE Japanese exam. But what is the Te-Form exactly? Some basic uses include commands (telling someone what to do), requests (asking someone to do something for you) and for linking sentences together (and..and…). E.g.

読んで! – read it!
買ってください – please buy it for me
座って飲みます – sit and drink


Okay, so here’s the song.

い • ち • り → って

に • び • み → んで

き → いて

ぎ → いで

し → して

くる → きて

する → して

例外 → 行って

So what’s all that about い、ち and り exactly? Those are the end of the verb stem. What’s a verb stem you ask? Okay:

Take 使います (つかいます – to use). The stem of the verb is 使い – basically, just drop the ます ending. (Remember, your ます ending is what makes your Japanese polite, quite different to the dictionary form the the verb).

So, we have: 使い. As we can see, at the end of the stem we have い, so we should look at the first line of the Te-Form Song:

い • ち • り → って

This shows us that the verb conjugates to use って. So 使います becomes 使って. You drop the い and add the って. Simple!

What about the rest of the line, ち and り. These are exactly the same, just drop them and add って in their place. For example:

勝ちます (かちます – to win) → 勝って
やります (やります – to do) → やって

How about the line に、び and み? These are exactly the same, just drop them and add んで in their place. For example:

死にます (しにます – to die) → 死んで
遊びます (あそびます – to play) → 遊んで
飲みます (のみます – to drink) → 飲んで


Got that? Good, so here’s a an example from each line.

い • ち • り → って 使います (つかいます – to use) → 使って
に • び • み → んで 飲みます (のみます – to drink) → 飲んで
き → いて 書きます (かきます – to write) → 書いて
ぎ → いで 急ぎます (いそぎます – to hurry) → 急いで
し → して 貸します (かします – to lend) → 貸して
くる → きて 来る (くる – to come) → 来て
する → して する (する – to do) → して
例外 → 行って 行きます (いきます – to go) → 行って

The first 5 lines of the song are for regular verbs. They just work. But the last 3 lines are for irregular verbs. Luckily for us, there are not many!

します to do
来ます to come
行きます to go

する and 来る just change to して and 来て – pretty easy. The big exception here is 行く because it ends in き when in the ます form of the verb (行きます). Surely then, it should be 行いて? No, it’s an exception. 行きます conjugates to 行って. Remember it well!

And that about wraps up the Te-Form! There are a few more irregular verbs that you can check out here, but the Te-Form Song covers most of the stuff you’ll encounter as a beginning Japanese student. It’s incredibly useful to learn and I know it’s helped many students starting out, so make some time to internalise it. Any questions, drop them in the comments below.

Happy singing!

(P.S. Here’s a different version if you don’t like Oh My Darling Clementine. It’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town!)

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16 Responses to The Te Form Song

  1. BobbyJudo June 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    That’s cool!
    I learned to remember Te-form conjugations based on the plain past conjugations, and there was a song for that too! To the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle:”

    くいた、ぐいだ、う・つ・る った
    ぬ〜、む〜、ぶ〜〜 んんんんんだ!

    The rhythm was kind of a stretch, but I’ve never forgotten it.  Every う行 character represents a different dictionary verb form ending, and then their plain past form endings follow.

  2. BobbyJudo June 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    That’s cool!
    I learned to remember Te-form conjugations based on the plain past conjugations, and there was a song for that too! To the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle:”

    くいた、ぐいだ、う・つ・る った
    ぬ〜、む〜、ぶ〜〜 んんんんんだ!

    The rhythm was kind of a stretch, but I’ve never forgotten it.  Every う行 character represents a different dictionary verb form ending, and then their plain past form endings follow.

    • Gakuranman June 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Awesome! I’d never heard this variation before, but it seems like the Te-Form is used all over in song form. Although I rarely need to think of the song now, during those first few years it was indispensable :).

  3. Patrick Sykes June 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I feel like I missed out! I was taught a “te-form song” that wasn’t even a song…I’ll be learning this one now though – when in doubt, I tend to work on the logic of “聞く goes to 聞いて, so 動く must go to 動いて”.

    Also, in the song lyrics, you’ve got する → きて instead of して.

    • Gakuranman June 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      Thanks for spotting that. All corrected now :). I hope the song comes in useful. It goes along with logic pretty well, so I’m sure you’ll have it down in no time!

  4. Natasha Jorge July 15, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Man you’re so cute singing that is impossible forget

    Thank you for sharing your kawaiiness with the world <3

  5. Leah Hicks July 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    This is so cute! :) And what baffles me is that 行う is also 行って in the て form, why on earth didn’t they just leave 行く as 行いて?

    • Gakuranman July 19, 2011 at 9:09 am #

      It is indeed a mystery! It does sound better to say いって than いいて though! Or perhaps I’ve just gotten used to it :p.

  6. Vivasanta/Miyuki August 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Excellent job. You have a very clear, simple, and effective teaching style. And very pleasant to watch.

  7. Alex October 22, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    Love the song and great vid!

  8. Annie March 18, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    The video was very helpful, but we haven’t gotten to the kanji you used for the last line. Could you please write it in hiragana for me? Thanks!

    • Gakuranman March 19, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      Sure. The reading of 例外 is れいがい, meaning ‘exception’. Happy studying!

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