http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/complete/adverbs http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/complete/verb_sequences <-also covers adjectives

Following Tae Kim's guide, those two forms of 青黒い are

(adverbial form): 青黒く
(continuative/て-form): 青黒くて

In English, an adverb is used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. But in my previous thread, What conjugation of what word is ぐろく?, 「青黒く」 is also referred to as the "continuative form" meaning "bluish-black and".

So now I have to ask, what's the difference between these two forms? If both the adverbial form and the て-form can be continuative... then how can I tell if a word is meant to modify an upcoming verb/adjective or just link to it?



Adjective/Adverb: 青ぐろく
Upcoming Verb: またたいていました

I would've read that sentence as "As for the sky, the stars all around were bluish-blackly twinkling", with the adverb modifying the next verb.

But it was translated by l'électeur as "The sky was bluish-black and the stars all around were twinkling", with the adverb not modifying the upcoming verb at all, just linking to it.

Can someone clarify the difference between a "true adverb", an adjective's adverbial form, and an adjective's て-form?
And why an adverbial form can be continuative?


1 Answer 1


Joining two statements

Broadly speaking, the く ending allows the meaning of the first statement to broadly modify the second, while くて puts an end on the first statement and separates it more from the second statement.

Let's look at the specific sample sentence in the linked thread.


Here, we basically have two clauses. Simplifying drastically, we have:


... and:


Joining with the ~くて conjunctive form

We could join these two using the conjunctive くて form of the adjective in the first clause:


The sense with this kind of joining is that the first statement finishes, and then the second statement comes in. It works well for connecting two statements that don't necessarily have a lot to do with each other. Part A, and then Part B. Kinda like:

"Here at Channel 7 News, our cameras are new​, and you'll get traffic info too!"

Looking again at our sample Japanese sentence and translating to try to give the flavor of this kind of joining:

The sky was blue-black, and [separately, unrelatedly] the stars were twinkling all around.

Given the content of Part A and Part B, this kind of hard break doesn't seem to work very well -- the two statements are actually closely related. Which brings us to the く style of joining statements.

Joining with the ~く adverbial form

Without the て, as you noted, the adjective is technically in the く adverbial form. This can apply conceptually in a way to the following clause, essentially describing a quality of what comes next. Instead of Part A, and then Part B, it's more like Part A describes something more about Part B. There is no natural grammatical analogue in English, but to make it more explicit, we might break it down like this:

With the sky be​ing blue-black​ly​, the stars were twinkling all around.

Here, the first part about the color of the sky more clearly leads into the second part about the stars.

That's horrible English and not how any native speaker would write it, but I hope that shows better how the Japanese fits together.

  • So despite being called the "adverbial form", an い-adjective in the く-form isn't actually an adverb the way English thinks of it. It doesn't modify a specific verb/adjective. Rather it's like a "description enhancer" that applies to the entire following clause and adds an extra bit of context for it. Does that sound right? And does that same rule apply to the adverbial form of な-adjectives (e.g. 静かに)?
    – Hyperglyph
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 3:52
  • 1
    @Hyperglyph -- well, it's a bit like the tortured English: it is an adverb, but one of the keys is that the Japanese adjectives include the sense of "is": hence the "being" I added in the tortured English :), so the く adjective in a clause like this could be parsed as "being [ADJECTIVE]-ly, [other phrase]". And yes, ultimately the phrase here is used to express a quality of the following phrase. Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 7:12
  • @Hyperglyph The problem here is not with the Japanese, but with trying to fit in into English notions of adverbs and adjectives. It's better to ignore words that reference English grammar like this, even though you will see this a lot. Also, do yourself a favor and use a textbook rather than Tae Kim's guide. Please remember that Japanese does not have syntactic adjectives. Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 7:30
  • 2
    Te form is not necessarily a simple joint of separate clauses, it can work "adverbially" too. For example, 星は空が暗くてまたたく means "Stars twinkle only after the sky is dark".
    – user4092
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 8:14
  • Since no one has mentioned otherwise, can I assume that all these ideas also apply to the adverbial form of the so-called な-adjectives (e.g. 静かに)?
    – Hyperglyph
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 8:40

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