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!)


8 Responses to Gakuu. Studying with Real Japanese

  1. Sabrina September 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This is pretty cool! Right now I’m studying on Textfugu which is great! I belive Gakuu can be really helpul too. What I like most is that its for pre-intermediate to advanced level students. So you can’t say its the same thing over and over again… students can actually improve their knowledge here. Thank you very much for creating this site. Have a nice day :)

    • Gakuranman September 30, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Sabrina! Thank you for your comment :).

      That’s definitely our aim. I love Textfugu for beginners and really getting students a solid grounding in the language, but afterwards (and even while) studying the basics, it can really help to encounter raw Japanese material. You don’t have to understand everything at first, but feeling challenged and picking up little bits here and there that are extra to your learning the basics helps expand your mind. Let me know if you have any more questions! More demonstration material will be up soon! We are currently having a special launch sale price for early adopters, so check out the pricing page if interested :).

      • Sabrina September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. :) Unfortunately I’m even still miles away from the intermediate level. But I’ll definetly return to Gakuu when I get to this point. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the extra demonstration material. :) Keep up the good work.

        • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am #

          Sure thing :). Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions for things you’d like to see on Gakuu!

  2. missingno15 October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    When I looked at this, I first thought to myself, “aw hell no, gakuranman is doing the same thing as koichi…even the website layout is similar”. But then I realized “it’s aimed at pre-intermediate to advanced level students” which is perfect for my situation right now because I now really want to excel way past beginner. So basically, Gakuu really complements Textfugu. Can’t wait for more lessons to see how this is gonna be like so I can decide if its worth getting.

    • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey there! Thanks for dropping by :). No way – Koichi and I are buds. I’ve always loved teaching the more advanced stuff so it worked out perfectly. I’ll be adding more stuff in the coming days, so please stay tuned!

  3. DumbOtaku (percent20) October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    This is really cool. I am glad to see more online content going beyond just teaching hirigana and katakana. That is what I try to do on my blog, but with to little consistency. Glad to see an expert do it, btw already a signed-up paid member now. :)

    • Gakuranman October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad to have you man! Look forward to hearing any suggestions you have for the site and future lessons :)

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