The -te verb form

So far, we have learned that verbs end with ます.

Before we look at how to make -te forms, we could go a bit further by saying that in Romaji, the ますform of all verbs ends in either emasu or imasu.

Verbs ending in –emasu


Verbs ending in –imasu


With this in mind, let’s look at two systems for making -te forms. All regular verbs belong to one or the other type.

(1) Simple pattern

For verbs that follow the simple pattern, just replace the final ます withて. No matter what the letter before ます is, it’s always the same

  1. ます                    たべます → たべ
  2. て                                 たべ + て → たべて

Here’s a list of some common verbs that follow the simple pattern:

ます formEnglishてform
おりますGet down/offおりて

All verbs that have an -e sound before ます, such as あけます orたべます follow the simple pattern. Some but not all verbs that have an -i sound before ます, such as おります  also follow the simple pattern.

The verbs きます and します are actually irregular, as we will learn later. For now, however, it’s enough to know that their –te forms follow the simple pattern.

(2) Complicated pattern

For verbs that follow the complicated pattern, you remove the finalます, but additionally, before adding て, you have to change the letter that came before ます. For example, with おわります:

  1. ます                    おわります → おわり
  2. おわ + っ → おわっ
  3. て                                  おわっ + て → おわって

This extra step is different depending on which letter comes before ます. So きります, which also has りbefore ます, follow s the same system as おわります。

きります → きって

But かきますand おきます, which have きbefore ますare different.

かきます → かいて

おきます → おいて

Here is a table of the different ways to make –te forms for verbs that follow the complicated pattern.

Letter before ますます formEnglishてform

Note that for はなします, the し that comes before ます does not change. This is an exception; for complicated pattern verbs with し before ます, the し doesn’t change for the –te form, but when you look at more verb endings you will see that they do indeed follow the complicated pattern.

(3) irregular verbs

いきますis a special case: its –te form doesn’t follow either system.

Letter before ますます formEnglishてform


You can see that although there are a lot of ways to make –te forms, there is a pattern, even if it is quite complicated. We can see that some verbs form –te forms using the simple system in (1), and some use a variant of the more complicated system in (2). For now, with only two verb endings, ます andて to highlight the difference, and the added complication that verbs that end in –imasu can use either system, the only accurate prediction you can make as as to what system a verb uses is that:

If it ends in –emasu, it definitely uses the simple system.

If a verb ends in –imasu, there’s no way to tell which system it uses, so rather than trying to learn the rules, it’s perhaps better to simply learn theてform of each new verb when you learn its ます form. When you learn more verbs and more verb endings, the differences between these two systems will become clearer.