Is there a difference between these two sentences



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

2 Answers 2



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

Regarding the actual question, I believe verb stems and ~て are very similar (perhaps interchangeable) in terms of semantics. 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 (there are other options too).

"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."

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 anything 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 a sequence of actions, whether they take place in the past, present, or future.

See this answer

  • 1
    ~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
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 22:47
  • 2
    Recommended reading: socrates.berkeley.edu/~hasegawa/TE-Linkage/TE-linkage.html
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 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
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 15:57
  • 1
    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
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 5:20
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 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.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .