Is there a difference between these two sentences



More generally, when should I choose one form over the other? Thanks.



So it seems my original answer was incorrect. For the semantics of ~て linkage, please see this article (many thanks to snailboat for this resource).

Regarding the actual question, I believe verb stems and ~て are very similar (perhaps interchangeable) in terms of semantic meaning. However, according to my textbook (titled Tobira: Gateway to Advanced Japanese Learning through Content and Multimedia) and Kyle's answer, the verb stem is associated with formality and as such, it is more often seen in formal writing.

If you would like to imply or emphasize the ordering of a sequence of activities, a ~てから construct can be used (though there are other options).


"subject ate breakfast and watched TV. (in no particular order)"


"subject ate breakfast and watched TV. (in no particular order)"


"after eating breakfast, subject watched TV."

Apologies for any misunderstandings I may have caused.

Original (Incorrect!) Answer

The first sentence:


implies that you drank beer, and then ate pie.

On the other hand, the second sentence:


does not imply any thing about the order in which you performed the two actions. It could be translated as "drank beer and ate pie", or "ate pie and drank beer".

In other words, using ~て to join sentences implies temporal ordering. As a result, it is usually used to convey some sequence of actions, whether they take place in the past, present, or future.

See this answer

  • ~て does not always imply sequential actions, it is also used for concurrent actions and states. It is rather vague. If you want to express temporal ordering without fail, you can use ~たら form, or 後.
    – firtree
    Apr 15 '15 at 22:47
  • 2
    Recommended reading: socrates.berkeley.edu/~hasegawa/TE-Linkage/TE-linkage.html
    – user1478
    Apr 16 '15 at 8:38
  • 1
    @snailboat Cool paper! Do you have a PDF version of it, for easier reading and printing? P.S. I've found it myself, it's hasegawa.berkeley.edu/Papers/TE.pdf
    – firtree
    Apr 16 '15 at 15:57
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    Straight out of that Berkeley link: "It is frequently claimed in the literature that one of the major uses of TE-linkage is to express temporal sequence or consecutiveness . . . . In this section, it is argued to the contrary that temporal sequence [] cannot be expressed by TE-linkage. "
    – Kyle
    Apr 17 '15 at 5:20
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    @Kyle Yes, I read the article. I hope my answer doesn't still imply that.. In any case, I do admittedly support your answer (and voted accordingly).
    – seafood258
    Apr 17 '15 at 19:14

The conjunctive form (aka pre-ます form) sounds more dry/learned/erudite/scholarly/formal. I hate all of those adjectives to describe it, but I think you know what I mean. It's of a higher register than the て form.

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