This is potentially much simpler than I'm expecting but when simply ordering events within a sequence are there any contextual differences between using ~て and ~てから?

For example, if I was talking about my morning routine and wanted to say I eat breakfast and then brush my teeth I could say it using either ~て or ~てから.

Every morning I eat breakfast and brush my teeth.

Every morning I brush my teeth AFTER I eat breakfast.

My interpretation is that meaning wise, these two sentences are essentially the same, first I eat my breakfast then I brush my teeth. Is this correct? Does ~てから place emphasis on one of the two events over the other or are these just two different ways of saying the same thing? How are these sentences different? In a situation like this why would I choose one over the other, is it simply a stylistic choice? Is there some nuance I'm missing here?

  • 1
    Your translations are correct. No special trick here.
    – oldergod
    Sep 10 '14 at 0:18
  • 3
    @oldergod Really? I actually see a trick here though not many would notice it. Will try to post an answer later on. Sep 10 '14 at 23:16

This question is trickier than it may appear to many J-learners and here is why.

OP's first sentence means what s/he stated in English not only because 「て」 was used but also because the two activities happen to be those that physically could not take place simultaneously -- "brush teeth" and "eat".

「て」 can certainly signify the sequence of activities, but it can also signify "juxtaposition".

See definition 一-5 in http://kotobank.jp/word/%E3%81%A6?dic=daijisen&oid=12537100

This means that if the two activities chosen to form the example sentences had been "eat breakfast" and "watch TV", which could easily be performed simultaneously, the 「て」 would have been ambiguous in function and meaning. If one of those two activities still took place before the other, using 「てから」 would have been the only possible choice in order to clarify the sequence.

We would often say something like:


When a Japanese-speaker says this, the 「て/で」(depends on verb) would often be for juxtaposition, and not necessarily for sequence. The three activities mentioned could take place in any order.

That is the difference between 「~~て」 and 「~~てから」.

*「朝シャン」 is a slangy/colloquial word for "shampoo in the morning".

  • Thank you, very appreciative! This explanation will definitely help me more easily derive a natural meaning when reading these types of sentences in the future.
    – mattb
    Sep 12 '14 at 16:32
  • As 「~てから」emphasizes the action sequence, why don't we use it when explaining direction, such as 「左に曲がってからまっすぐ行くと突き当りにあります 」rather than 「左に曲がってまっすぐ行くと突き当りにあります 」? Jun 18 '15 at 14:37
  • @FriendlyGhost it's a perfectly acceptable way of giving directions, both of your sentences are correct. The difference is only a slight one of tone IMO. Something like the difference between Take left and straight on () and **First** take left, **then** go straight (てから) in English.
    – desseim
    Aug 21 '19 at 22:19

It's simply that てから puts a strong emphasis on the order of the actions. is just an enumeration and doesn't necessarily imply ordering.

味噌汁を飲んでご飯を食べる。 Drink miso soup and eat rice. (both happen, maybe together, maybe one after the other, but we can't say - they're just 2 parts of a same group of actions)

味噌汁を飲んでからご飯を食べる。 First drink miso soup, and then eat rice. (there's no way rice eating happens before miso soup drinking)

Trying to reverse the clauses makes the difference evident:

ご飯を食べて味噌汁を飲む。 Eat rice and drink miso soup. (same meaning)

ご飯を食べてから味噌汁を飲む。 First eat rice, and then drink miso soup. (opposite meaning)

Prefer てから to explicitly specify the order things happen (giving instructions is a good example - but there's a lot of other valid use cases).

  • in this answer, it is noted that the volitionality must match for て. Does てから have this restriction?
    – Flaw
    Sep 10 '14 at 11:46
  • Yes, てから really just is appended with から (接続助詞「て」に格助詞「から」の付いたもの), so yes the same restrictions as apply to てから. Really just think of it as adding then after that to and or not in English: it only makes the order clearer.
    – desseim
    Sep 10 '14 at 12:55


Every morning I eat breakfast and brush my teeth.


Every morning I brush my teeth AFTER I eat breakfast.

These two translation perfectly works for Japanese people.
Most of Japanese choose 1.
2 a little bit sounds like foreigner or children .

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