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I have read in many grammar books that the te-form of a Japanese verb is the equivalent of "and" in English. However, the problem is that "and" has many meanings such as how it can mean consecutive action like in "he got shot and died" or simultaneous action like in "we talked and walked." Most grammar books I've seen have examples of the te-form being consecutive action like in sentences such as 葉を磨いて寝た, but I am curious if the te-form can also mean that both verbs started at the same time. In this case, can 話して歩いた mean the same as 話しながら歩いた where talking and walking occur at the same time?

  • in general A~te,B~ means (did ~A, then ~B) and can be as long a construction as is relevant; A~te,B~te,C~te,D~te,E~te. With just one A~te,B it can mean "doing at the same time" but adding more to the list tends to imply an ordering. – sova Mar 8 '15 at 5:30
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Both usages are equally common in the real Japanese-speaking world, if not in the world of Japanese-as-a-foreign-language.

Which one it means would totally depend on the context.

「[歯]{は}を[磨]{みが}いて[寝]{ね}た」 would naturally mean "(I) brushed (my) teeth and went to bed." because brushing teeth and sleeping could not take place simultaneously.

The same goes for 「[映画]{えいが}を[観]{み}て、レストランで[食事]{しょくじ}をして、[家]{いえ}に[帰]{かえ}った。」. Just cannot do all three or any two of them simultaneously.

「[話]{はな}して[歩]{ある}いた」 is clearly different in that almost everyone talks while walking. It is more than just possible; It is a human custom.

If you want to express clearly that a conversation took place first and only after it was finished, you walked, you could say:

「話した[後]{あと}で歩いた。」、「[会話]{かいわ}してから[散歩]{さんぽ}した」, etc.

In the video below of the well-known song, Kyu Sakamoto is not saying "Let's look up towards the sky and then take a walk!" He is, instead, saying "Let's do both simultaneously (so that tears won't fall)."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAW0Vd9XVA8

  • When you mean simultaneously, do you mean to start both at the same time? I don't see why "Let's look up towards the sky and then take a walk!" doesn't work since you can first look up at the sky and, once your eyes are in the sky, start walking. – Joe Mar 6 '15 at 4:41

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