Using い-Adjective て Form

    • Adjective
    Changing an い-adjective into the て form allows you to combine it with other words in a sentence, in a similar way to “and” or “so” in English.

    Table of Contents

    くて for Linking Words like "And"

    Changing an い-adjective into its て form is all about joining words together. It's kind of like a built-in "and" that attaches itself to the い-adjective. But wait! You may have learned that "and" is expressed using the particle と in Japanese. It is - but its use is somewhat limited. Let's begin our discussion with a quick refresher on how と works.

    • りんごバナナを食べました。
    • I ate an apple and a banana.

    In the sentence above, the two nouns りんご (apple) and バナナ (banana) are linked with particle と, just like "and" does in English. If we want to express "and" with two い-adjectives however, we cannot use と. Why is this? The reason is simple: い-adjectives can be conjugated to show an "and" relationship between them. To show grammatical relationships like "and" in Japanese, we always prefer to conjugate words if we can, rather than add new ones. For this reason, it's ungrammatical to use と with an い-adjective. Let's see how to conjugate an い-adjective using 甘い (sweet) and 美味しい (delicious) as an example:

    • このケーキは甘くて美味しい。
    • This cake is sweet and delicious.

    In the example above, the two い-adjectives, 甘い (sweet) and 美味しい (delicious), both describe the cake. In order to form a simple adjective phrase like "sweet and delicious" in Japanese, the first adjective in the pair must change its shape from 甘 to 甘くて. Click the link to read more about conjugating into the て form.

    くて for Linking Words like "So"

    In some contexts, the connection between the first and second adjective can be more like "so" than "and." Our example sentence from above, このケーキは甘くて美味しい, could also be understood as "This cake it sweet, so it's delicious." The meaning of the adjective て form depends solely on context. Let's compare two more sentences to make this distinction a little clearer.

    • あの店は安くて美味しい。
    • That restaurant is cheap and delicious.
    • このカフェーは居心地がよくて好きだ。
    • This cafe is comfortable, so I like it.

    In the first sentence, there is an "and" relationship between the two adjectives, 安い (cheap) and 美味しい (delicious). The low cost of the food isn't the reason for its tastiness, it simply is both cheap and tasty. The second sentence, on the other hand, is an example of a "so" relationship between the two adjectives, 居心地がいい (comfortable) and 好き (favored). I like the cafe because it is comfortable. In most cases, the relationship between the words will be clear from their meaning or the context in which the sentence occurs.

    くて for Linking Clauses

    So far, we've seen how the て form can be used to link two adjectives together into a phrase. Next, let's take a look at how this structure can help us to link two sentences together. In the next example, we will combine the following sentences into one, larger compound sentence:

    • 去年はとても暖かった。
    • Last year was very warm.
    • 雨が少なかった。
    • There was little rain.

    To combine these sentences, we will follow a similar process as before. To begin, we change the い-adjective ending of the first sentence (暖かった) to its て form. Since the adjective 暖かった is in the past tense, it may be helpful to first change the adjective back to its present tense form first (暖かい). For more info on how to do that, click here. Once we have 暖かい, we can follow the two steps outlined above: replace the い with く (暖か→暖か) and then add て (暖かく). Now the sentences are ready to stick together.

    • 去年はとても暖かくて、雨が少なかった。
    • Last year was very warm, and there was little rain.

    Just like we discussed with short phrases, い-adjectives in their て form can also create a "so" relationship when combining two sentences. Let's examine an example of this.

    • 去年は雪が少なくてスキーがあまり出来なかった。
    • There was little snow last year, so I couldn't ski very much.

    In this example, the fact that there was little snow last year (去年は雪が少なかった) is the reason why I couldn't ski very much (あまりスキーが出来なった). Do you notice anything else that differs between the two sentences? The first sentence, which has an "and" relationship between the two parts, uses a comma (or「てん」 in Japanese) to separate the clauses. In the second sentence, which contains a "so" relationship, there is no comma. This is a general writing style rule in Japanese, but is not always strictly followed.

    Let's wrap this up with one last observation about combining clauses in Japanese and English. When two clauses are combined with an "and" or "so" in English, the past tense is expressed in both. In Japanese, the tense is only indicated by the second clause, in other words the end of the entire combined sentence. This is shown by the 〜かった ending on the い-adjective 少なかった and the verb 出来なかった.

    Other Forms of い-Adjectives

    Check out the chart below to see how 〜くて fits into the い-adjective paradigm. Click on other conjugations or forms to learn more about them!

    Form 日本語 English
    Stem Form
    く Form strongly
    て Form くて strong, (and)
    Present Tense Form is-strong
    Past Tense Form かった was-strong
    Negative Form くない is-not-strong
    Past Negative Form くなかった was-not-strong
    Conditional Form ければ if strong...
    Measurable Noun Form strength
    Subjective Noun Form strong point