Why can -たて attach to some verbs and not others? What is a more precise definition of how to use it?

I had been aware of the suffix -たて as meaning 'an action just/newly completed/occurred' for a while but I covered it in my textbook more formally today. It attaches in the form of 連用形+たて. For example,
焼きたて = freshly baked
とりたて = freshly picked
ペンキ塗りたて = newly painted

However, my book also stated that you can't say the following.

If the definition above was correct, I should be able to use it for those words. That definition is also supported by the dictionaries I've looked it up in:
Yahoo! Jisho "動詞の連用形に付いて、その動作が終わったばかりであることを表す"
Jisho.org "indicates activity only just occurred; just (done)"

  • My books are all packed up, so I can't check to see if they say anything relevant... but I found a paper titled 「∼たて」に関する一考察 : 「∼たばかり」との比較を通して, which looks like it might be interesting. (I've only just started to read it. There's an English abstract on the final page, by the way.)
    – user1478
    Jul 2, 2013 at 13:39
  • My feeling is that it's only used for things "produced" or "brought about".
    – dainichi
    Jul 4, 2013 at 2:18

3 Answers 3


This is only my own gut feeling, but I'm fairly certain the distinction involves whether or not the verb produces an object (not grammatical object!) in a time-dependent state. 焼きたて, for example, refers to baked goods that are fresh out of the oven and thus still quite warm - they haven't cooled yet. ペンキ塗りたて refers to something that's been very recently painted and probably still wet - it hasn't dried yet. とりたて refers to fruit (and such things) that has recently been picked and is thus still very fresh - it hasn't had any of the decomposition processes associated with being removed from its tree begin in earnest yet.

The impossible phrases don't produce objects in clear time-dependent states. For *読みたて, while there is a state of 'recently having read a book and thus remembering its contents well', this applies to the reader, not the book itself. *寝たて doesn't even have any objects associated with it closely enough. For *食べたて, like *読みたて, the state of 'having recently eaten and now being full / no longer hungry' applies to the eater, not the food; and the food's state of having been eaten is not in any way time-dependent.

-たて may also require that the item being referred to would be the verb's grammatical object (ruling *寝たて out), but I'm not sure. I can't think of any counterexamples, but there might be some.


One of a few aspects of the term that I learned from my own question on 立{た}つ is that it can contain a concept of "emergence", in the sense of "to become evident". Not necessarily a deliberate creation, but in some sense that there is a result after a process.

Thus, in the examples you give, you can see in the correct usages that something comes of the action:

  • 焼{や}きたて = the cooked thing becomes different in that it's now an edible thing

  • とりたて = you how have the thing that you picked

  • ペンキ塗{ぬ}りたて = something is now a painted thing, a different appearance

Whereas in the incorrect usages you provide, it's hard to see that anything would have emerged as a result:

  • × 読{よ}みたて - Nothing is made from reading (putting aside deep philosophical arguments about creating a better person... nothing is literally made)

  • × 寝{ね}てたて - Sleep is a state bestowed upon you, and nothing is there after that wasn't there before

  • × 食{た}べたて - Quite the opposite of emergence, things are essentially destroyed by consumption

Hope that helps.


There is some children's game, where one player positions his hand in front of the other players face, pointing into the four directions up, down, left, right, according to a rhythm. The second player has to look into one direction. If he looks into the direction the finger points in, he loses.

The rhythm is given by saying the following:

生まれたて, 一才, 二才, 三才, …

The longer you last without looking into the same direction, the older you "are". Being declared 生まれたて, is particularly funny, not only because that means you are a baby, but also because 生まれたて sounds like 焼きたて, i.e. an unnatural use of the suffix ~たて. I think Sjiveru's answer already explains quite well the nuance of ~たて. I would think that 食べたて might be appropriate in some programme which follows the food through the digestive system. A 食べたて food would be food that has been swallowed, but hasn't started to be digested.

  • 「あっち向いてホイ」みたいなゲーム・・・?
    – user1016
    Jul 4, 2013 at 22:51
  • @Chocolate そうです。「あっち向いてホイ」のアドバンストバージョンですね。
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 4, 2013 at 23:16

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