I'm a bit confuse while trying to read a few sentences.

  1. 離れて見ると、彼は実際よりずっと若く見える。(離れる + 見る)(I understand the first phrase mean "from distance view")

  2. 相手の名前をなかなか思い出すことができなくて困った (this is either "2 verbs link together "できる + 困る or the "て" here mean "when/because" and not a modifier for "困った")

So i translate the 2nd sentence into this:

=> It's troublesome when cannot remember your partner's name (i think this one is correct) => It's cannot be trouble ... (this sound so wrong)

I only learned that "て" mean "when/because" when you use it with a comma to separate 2 sentences.

eg: 事故があって、バスが遅れてしまいました。

I feel like I'm missing somethings during my Japanese's studying progress.. Is this a grammar structure or is there a way to call this type of combination ?

Thank you, sorry for my noobness !

  • 2
    Are you asking if the inclusion of a comma affects the meaning when using て to connect verbs?
    – Flaw
    Sep 5, 2016 at 9:57
  • 「相手の名前をなかなか思い出すことができなくて、困った。」(with a comma)「事故があってバスが遅れてしまいました。」(without a comma) would be okay. I think commas are often optional, as long as the sentence is not difficult to parse/read/understand. 「ご飯を食べてシャワーを浴びて寝ました。」「地震があって大勢の人が死にました。」「お腹が空いていてケーキを二つ食‌​べてしまいました。」(without commas) look okay to me, too. Just 「この机は、私が木を使って、作りました。」(with another comma) looks unnatural. I can't explain well, but I think it's probably because it has too many commas in one short sentence.
    – chocolate
    Sep 8, 2016 at 2:07

3 Answers 3


You can think of て as having 3 basic uses.

The first is to show sequence. A happens, then B, then C. ご飯を食べて、シャワーを浴びて、寝ました。I ate my meal, then took a shower and then slept.

The second is to show means, method. A is used to do B. この机は、私が木を使って作りました。As for this table, I made it by using wood.

The third is to show reason. 地震があって、大勢の人が死にました。Because an earthquake happened, lots of people died.

Perhaps you could now think about how each of your two examples fits in with one of the three usages of て.

For me, I think of it this way:

離れて見る can be thought of as the second usage: Through/by being at a distance, I (or some other person) look(s) or see(s) something. The method of seeing or viewing - the "how" - is by being far away.

事故があって、バスが遅れてしまいました。can be thought of as the third usage: The bus was late because an accident happened. (note the nuance of regret or disappointment that I can't really incorporate in the translation. This is because of てしまいました.) て in this case shows reason.

Note: the third usage of て, to show reason, is limited by at least two rules. When you construct a sentence with "reason て result", what follows the て must be non-volitional (cannot be controlled / happens naturally). Furthermore, the reason must not happen after the result.

For example (edited with chocolate's suggested sentences):

X お[腹]{なか}が[空]{す}いていて、ケーキを二つ食べましょう。(volitional)

O お腹が空いて‌​いるので/から、ケーキを二つ食べましょう‌​。(ので and から can take volition)

O お腹が空いていて、ケーキを二つ食‌​べ(てしまい)ました。/食べられました。‌(て with non-volition)

X 友達があした来て、きょうはいそがしくなりました。 Because my friend is coming tomorrow, today became busy (became a busy day). My friend coming tomorrow happens, chronologically speaking, after today became busy. Thus the sentence becomes ungrammatical.

O 友達があした来ますから、きょうはいそがしくなりました。Because my friend is coming tomorrow, today became busy (became a busy day). から is able to express a reason happening after a result, so this sentence is acceptable.

  • 「うれしくて、ケーキを食べました」「うれしくて、ケーキを食べられました」 sound unnatural... "Volitional" is 「食べよう」「食べましょう」, right? How about using something like「×お[腹]{なか}が[空]{す}いていて、ケーキを二つ食べましょう。←volitional」→「○お腹が空いているので/から、ケーキを二つ食べましょう。」「○お腹が空いていて、ケーキを二つ食べ(てしまい)ました。/食べられました。←non-volitional」 instead?
    – chocolate
    Sep 6, 2016 at 12:52
  • Thanks for your input! I'll edit these in later; for now I will add a note linking to your comment:)
    – rhyaeris
    Sep 6, 2016 at 17:09
  • No problem! Added chocolate's recommended examples.
    – rhyaeris
    Sep 7, 2016 at 23:52

The て form should be seen as a way of concatenating sentences in one whole sentence.

Instead of saying


You would connect those sentences in one, as in


It can be generally seen as an "and".

In this example, it would be literally translated as

There was an accident and the bus was late.

In this case, it obviously shows a cause-to-effect connection, but this is not always true.

In your example, I would say you could translate the sentence as

It was troublesome I could not recall my partner's name.

Since you could literally translate it as

I could not recall my partner's name. And it was troublesome.


. . . できなくて困った


In each of these examples (above), a reason is given.

-- like (5) and (6) below.

See: What is the role of あるいて?

(5) a.  公園でポピーに会って, ヒューはとても喜んだ。 
    b.  [Bumping into] Poppy in the park, [Hugh] was very pleased.
          Having bumped into ... , 

(6) a.  今日は土曜日で, ヒューは学校がある。 
    b.  Today being Saturday, [Hugh] has school.

(7) a.  正直に言って, クーは太りすぎだ。 
    b.  Honestly speaking, Koo is overweight.

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