Im having so much troubles trying to find a good explanation on how to use the て形 to express a cause, I saw that its more natural to use when the second part of the sentence is either a potential form or volitional, so I came up with the sentence :


Which sounded a bit weird to me and I had confirmation from a friend that it was better to use 【から】 here...

I have no trouble understanding this form when its used, but sometimes when I use it myself it doesnt feel right to my ear and often feel like I should use 【から】 instead of the て形

Here are two sentences :



I asked him how he sees those two sentences and he said that the first sounded more like a condition than an explication of "why I can't go".

I really like to fully understand things but here I must admit I have no idea how this should be understood, like how japanese people understand those sentences and the nuance, and how you would translate them...


  • 1
    I just saw on another post 甘すぎて食べれない, and it made me realize something! Maybe the て form is better used when the first part of the sentence is something we don't have any control on, and the second part is a potential, volitional verb? I'm not sure though
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 16:47
  • Maybe that's the answer in your case. What was 喋らなくて練習できない supposed to mean? Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 17:02
  • I can't practice because I don't chat much (forgot the あまり xD) But Im not sure if my explanation works for every cases where the te-form is used to express a cause
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • Do you mean you can't practice Japanese because you don't chat much in Japanese? If so, maybe 練習できない isn't the best option though... Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 5:32
  • Yep, but anyway i was asking about the て form so you can replace it with anything it doesnt matter much ^^
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


て形 in this case is used to string sentences together. I've never seen it used to specifically indicate cause and effect. For you first sentence...

喋らなくて練習できない。 I don't talk (to others) and can't practice.

喋らないから練習できない。 I can't practice because I don't talk (to others).

車がなくて行けない。 I don't have a car and can't go.

車がないから行けない。 I can't go because I don't have a car.

Your friend is correct in assuming the former is a statement while the latter sounds more like an answer to a question asking for reason. Does this make more sense now that I put it in English terms? Let me know.

Basically, with て形 you are forming causation with two sentences. Like, if I asked if your friend wanted to come to my party. In English you might say, "He's busy and can't make it." That right there shows cause and effect without directly stating "because". Why couldn't he come to me party? Because he was busy. You just don't directly state it with "because."

Now, this doesn't work in all cases. If I asked instead, "Why don't you eat more vegetables?" It sounds a little off to answer with, "They are expensive and I can't eat them too often." That makes it sound like there are multiple reasons for you not eating vegetables. So, instead, you would say, "I can't eat them too often because they are expensive." This provides an explanation for my question.

Make sense...?


How about this form:



  • Yep I know this form already, but what I would like to know is how the て form is interpreted and how different it is from using から
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 17:56
  • Ah, I understand now. Sorry about that-
    – user224579
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 18:00

You must log in to answer this question.

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