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I ask here my question because I couldn't find anything on internet. My problem is about 〜くて form for a verb. I asked to a japanese friend what does mean "会いたくて" for example. She told me that there is a complicated nuance behind that... It means "I want to meet you (but I can't)" I didn't have the opportunity to ask again so I ask here... Does someone explain me the using of 〜くて ? I'm so confused (>_<) Especially with the form which express the desire like "食べたい" → "食べたくて" Thank you in advance !

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3 Answers

~くて is not an ending for a verb, it is the ~て form of an i-adjective. In your case the i-adjective formed by the verb 会う + the ending ~たい, where the ending ~たい is translated as "to want to".

The ~て form of a verb, adjective or noun is used as a connective, which can sometimes be translated simply as "and", but sometimes this "and" can be interpreted to give a reason for what follows.

In your case

  会う   >      会いたい    >       会いたくて
to meet > to want to meet > to want to meet and ...


I want to meet and I'm sad.
or better:
Because I want to see you, I feel sad.

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can you explain the "or better" part? Maybe I am misreading it, but I do not understand it. –  yadokari Feb 23 '13 at 19:16
@yadokari I formatted it to make it less ambiguous. Does that answer your question? Or did you want to know, why I consider the second translation a better translation? –  Earthliŋ Feb 23 '13 at 19:21
It's clear now- in the first draft i thought "or better" was part of your translation -I totally misread it :/ ... thanks! –  yadokari Feb 24 '13 at 1:07
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〜くて's on the end of verbs at the end of sentences can have a number of different usages which have different nuances, so I think context here is very important. I believe that in speech the style of speaking can also change depending on which usage. The core meaning of it is however "I want to do (something) and (a connotation of something else which is implied)", which can change depending on context.

Was there an ellipsis character (as opposed to linguistic ellipsis as pointed out by @user1205935) after the 会いたくて, as in 会いたくて…? If so, I believe it can change the nuance and I think it could have the meaning of 会いたくて会えない "I want to meet (but can't)", but I think 会いたくて。 by itself generally wouldn't have that meaning, and would be used in situations like "I want to meet (so I'm going to)" (unless there's some context I'm missing here).

If there was a "but" before it etc, e.g. でも、会いたくて。 on the other hand I think it wouldn't need an ellipsis character after it to have that meaning.

(I think I also often see this usage of 〜くて with some kind of strengthener before/after it, e.g. 本当に会いたくて…/めっちゃ会いたくて… and can also be doubled for extra effect in songs etc, e.g. 会いたくて、会いたくて…).

Edit: Tried to make things a bit clearer.

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I always think of ~くて at the end of the sentence as an ellipsis of something else that wants to be conveyed. (When I say "ellipsis", in mean ellipsis and not ellipsis.) –  Earthliŋ Feb 23 '13 at 0:20
@user1205935 maybe. In the case of 行きたくて。 I think it could be used as in a context of "I want to go (so I'm going)", but I think that'd be used in a context where you're going to go somewhere, not necessarily in a 行きたくて行けない sense like 行きたくて…... hmm, I don't know... –  cypher Feb 23 '13 at 0:26
I've edited to try to make things a bit clearer. I actually wasn't sure whether to write this post as an answer or comment, but assuming someone said 会いたくて had the meaning of "I want to meet you (but I can't)" in a sentence then context is probably very important here and I can only guess. –  cypher Feb 23 '13 at 3:59
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Well, such a form has several meanings depending on the case. I am going to provide a brief overview, but it can be helpful. The pattern is always the same:


I am going to provide a direct answer for the specific case pointed out in the question, then, considering that you wanted a generic explanation about the 〜くて form, I am going to post more cases.

In your specific case...

In your case you have a sentence where the 〜たい form is applied. Such a form has the following pattern:


And is used to express will, intention. For example:

行く ==> 行きます ==> 行きたい

Please note that the 〜たい form turns your verb into an い-Adjective. After this, you apply the 〜くて pattern to the verb/adjective and get the 〜くて form. So what is the meaning? Among the possible ones, one is the one reported below.

〜くて as a conjunction

When used for い-Adjectives, the following pattern:


Can be used to put together some sentences. For example:

あのね、石川先生は面白くて、優しくて、ハンサムな人ですよ! ==> Well, Ishikawa-sensei is interesting, nice and a beautiful person.

You can make concatenation of adjectives using this pattern.

About your answer...

last option I showed in this post (some sort of ellipsis as someone else described before):

会いたくて ==> I want to meet (him/her?)... ==> I want to meet him/her but... ==> I would like to meet him/her, but...

For a better comprehension, post the full sentence.

Other meanings associated to the 〜くて form...

I promised since you asked for a generic answer. Below I listed some other meanings of the 〜くて form.

In spoken Japanese, used to leave a certain "negation"-like feeling in the air

It is used very often in spoken language and in conversations. Consider the following example where 笑{えみ}子{こ}, a woman working in a shop, is apologizing because she picked the wrong color for a t-shirt a client wanted to check:

笑{えみ}子{こ}さん: あー、ごめんなさい、やはり色が違いますね? ==> Oh, I am sorry, as I thought the color is wrong right?

お客様: じゃなくて、色大丈夫です、サイズは小さすぎるんでしょう! ==> Well, not really! The problem is the size, it is too small!

笑{えみ}子{こ}さん: そうですか、解りました!ちょっと待って下さい、すぐ見に行きます。Ah! You are right! Please wait a moment, I am going to check!

As you can see, Emiko thought one thing, but the problem turned out being a completely different one.

Consider this different situation:

お父さん: じゃ、これですね?カバンを買いに行きました。無くしたので、カバンが要ったんじゃない〜 ==> Well, Is this it? I went buying a new bag for you, since you lost yours. You needed it right?

息子さん: えと、要らなくて〜カバンを無くしたけど、そのあと友達に見つけてもらったんですから〜 ==> Well, don't really. I didn't lost it, a friend found it for me, so...

Daddy thought his son needed a new bag, but the son told him that it was not necessary.

In these kinds of situation, when you want to express a little disappointment and embarass for something not necessary, you use this form.

To express the cause for something that happened

You can use the same pattern in order to point out the cause for a certain event to happen. However this form can only be used for verbs in negative forms. Pattern is:


Consider the following example:

遅くて、ごめんなさい。 ==> Sorry, I was late

The previous is not a sentence really used a lot in spoken language, to say sorry for being late Japanese use other forms, but sometimes kids use that. Consider this example as well:

何も無くて、よかったね! ==> Thank god nothing happened!

Or this:

課長が何も言わなくて、こわい! ==> Boss didn't say a single word, he was scary!

To express something like: "no need of..."

The pattern is the following:


But Japanese people, only in common conversations and where all people are at the same level (so no boss, no section manager and so on...), do tend to drop も from 〜くても, so the pattern can also be:


Where も in square brackets means: optional. The meaning of this pattern is: "No need of...". Consider the following example.

パーティーへ行かなくても、大丈夫ですよ! ==> Even if I do not go to the party, everything will be all right.

プレゼントをもらわなくても、うれしいです。 ==> Even if I did not receive a present, I would be happy.

When the sentence is "いいです", so we have the following pattern:


The meaning is: "No need...". Consider the following example:

明日は会社に来なくてもいい! ==> Tomorrow you do not need to come to work.

Or this example:

払わなくて、いいですよ! ==> You don't need to pay! ==> It is ok if you do not pay.

Or this as well:

見つけなくても、いいですよ。大切な物じゃないから〜 ==> It's all right if you don't find it, it is not something important (referring to something lost).

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I made a mistake in the final paragraph, sorry. I edited the answer. Please, when downcasting point out why you did the downcast, at least I can understand where I am wrong, it took me a little time to figure it out... As you can see I edited after realizing the mistake... –  Andry Feb 23 '13 at 9:48
I did not downvote your post and agree that any downvoter should comment on your post. Be that as it may, I have to say that some of your posts are very long which makes them hard to read. Except for the last paragraph, I wasn't even sure you were going to answer the main question. It might save some of your time as well, if you concentrate on answering the main question (only), and add more information when requested by the OP (or someone else). Length in itself is no reason for me to downvote, but it might be for other people. In any case, thank you for putting so much effort into your post. –  Earthliŋ Feb 23 '13 at 14:40
@user1205935: Yeah, I am aware that my posts are quite long, but this is my style. I like to provide people with some sort of full knowledge. Consider also that the user who posted the question asked for explaination about the 〜くて form, so I did answer. But you ar right when you say that I need to be more straightforward and less rambling... You also said you weren't sure I would have answered the question ahah... So I am changing my answer to put the answer to the top, and the rest for "further reading". Thankyou very much. –  Andry Feb 23 '13 at 18:50
Done! I hope now it is better :) –  Andry Feb 23 '13 at 18:57
What is a "negation-like feeling"? Negation is to me a logical/grammatical concept, and not a feeling. Your answer has quite a bit of ungrammatical/unnatural/non-standard language e.g. ハンサム人, 無くしなかった, パーチ. –  dainichi Feb 24 '13 at 1:36
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