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I've studied the use of a polite(?) te-form conjugation that is used to enumerate actions or for a request (adding ください). Examples would be 聞いて, 死んで.

But what about non-polite(?) te-form conjugations? 聞け, 死ね, when do you use them? They rather seem imperative, as if the speaker were giving an order with an angry tone, but I believe that's actually the case of the 〜なさい suffix.

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    "what about non-polite(?) te-form conjugations? 聞け, 死ね, when do you use them" >> ?? Sorry, are 聞け and 死ね te-form? – Chocolate Jan 20 '16 at 6:23
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    A "te-form" is a form ending in 〜て. It isn't a general term for asking/telling people what to do. – snailcar Jan 20 '16 at 6:27
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    The forms you're talking about are called imperatives, or 命令形. – Aeon Akechi Jan 20 '16 at 11:35
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Let's talk about the imperative in Japanese: an imperative is a way to give orders and/or commands. However, the form of these utterances decides whether they are humble requests to barked orders.

You can find a quite complete reference here

In general you can use a number of forms:

  • ます-stem+なさい: this is a polite yet firm request. It is often used to soften orders, between parents and child or boss/employee.

    よく聞{き}きなさい!

  • て-form+ください or noun+ください: This also a polite way of expressing a request, think of "Please do this". This is widely used, I hear it all the time in classrooms:

    座{すわ}ってください!

  • The imperative form that is made from either turning the last syllable of a godan verb to the corresponding e pair or by adding to the stem of a ichidan verb. This one is used for strong orders, such as those you give to your dog:

    走{はし}れ! しっかりしろ!

There are other variations, but these are the main imperative forms. Note that the て-form is one imperative form among many others. Usage of those forms depends a lot on the context, mainly the current situation and relationship between the speakers.

An interesting example is 頑張{がんば}る, to do one's best, to strive for perfection.

  • 頑張りなさい would typically be used by soccer moms encouraging their children.
  • 頑張ってください would be used to encourage a co-worker.
  • 頑張って may be used by friends encouraging you
  • 頑張れ (often written ガンバレ) will be used by sports fan cheering on their favorite team/player.

Unfortunately there is no set rule, so it will take some time to recognize in which situation which form of imperative is to be used.

  • This is exactly the kind of explanation I was looking for, thank you very much. I didn't know what I was asking wasn't Te-form so that's pretty much what was blocking me. Also +1 for the furigana. – Christopher Francisco Jan 22 '16 at 17:51
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Choco's right but being pedantic ;)

~て form is often used as a casual direct request/command. ドア開けて!早く飲んで! Adding くれ!makes it very powerful, impatient, angry, desperate or comic.

~なさい is more how you would politely but strongly address/command/request a child or 'lower' person. You could also see it as one step down in formality from ください。

Like many things, tone, delivery and situation impart a lot of nuance and variety of application.

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    I think you've got the meaning for ~くれ wrong. It's just the auxiliary verb くれる "for me" – oals Jan 22 '16 at 19:44
  • As in  早くやってくれ! ?I'd call that a fairly powerful demand/command in spoken Japanese. – chariman Jan 24 '16 at 1:14
  • Certainly, but the power comes from the imperative form. – oals Jan 24 '16 at 11:54

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