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Frequently, て (te form) is used to indicate simultaneous, sequential, or causal relationships between the part of the sentence that comes before and the part of the sentence that comes after.

Ordinarily, what follows て is a clause that could otherwise stand alone. For example, a full sentence, just a verb or just an adjective. Some standard patterns are below. Everything after the + in each of these cases could function as a standalone idea.

~て+くれる

~て+ください

~て+あげる

~て+もらう

~て+ある

~て+いる

~て+いく

~て+くる

~て+みる

~て+おく

~て+しまう

~て+ほしい

In addition to these standard patterns, you of course have the flexibility to create your own sentence combinations. For example:

この人は綺麗で、有名だ。

安くなくて、買わなかった。

Again, what is listed after て・で is a standalone sentence.

However, what seems to break this pattern are constructions like the following three.

~て+から

~て+も

~て+は+いけない

What exactly is going on here? Is the て form in these patterns somehow being used as a way to nominalize the first part of the sentence in the same way as の or こと might?

For example, could I technically make the following changes without a difference in meaning, even if not a very natural/standard phrasing? I'm mostly trying to understand exactly what て form means here, and if my suspicions about て being a very specific-use clause nominalizer are correct.

  • スパーに行ってから、家に帰った。 → スパーに行ったのから、家に帰った。

  • 一緒に映画を見てもいい? → 一緒に映画を見るのもいい?

  • 話してはいけない → 話すのはいけない

In all these examples, what comes after て is not a standalone sentence.

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I am not sure this will be an answer to your question, but I couldn't fit all my thoughts into a comment.

First, in regard the examples you asked about:

For example, could I technically make the following changes without a difference in meaning, even if not a very natural/standard phrasing?

In short, no.

  • スパーに行ったのから is borderline ungrammatical and looks like you were trying to give a reason with スパーに行ったんだから. (changing this to スパーに行った事から does not make it viable)
  • 一緒に映画を見るのもいいis weird as a question, and the nuances are different from 見てもいい. 一緒に映画を見るのもいい sounds like a suggestion to me, in the vein of "watching a movie together would be fun too".
  • 話すのはいけない this gets the closest to the original meaning, but is certainly less natural than 話してはいけない, at least for directly telling people what they can or can't do. A native speaker may have to weigh in on differences in nuance.

Speaking really broadly, I think that the て form (テ形) is just not as systematic as you or I might like it to be. The relationship between whatever comes after the テ形 verb and what came before it depends on what comes after it. I deal with this by thinking of ておく, てほしい, etc. each as their own construction.

Edit: please also see a very related answer here.

If that's all you needed, feel free to stop reading now. If you remain unconvinced, I have addressed some of your supporting examples below.

Your wrote:

Ordinarily, what follows て is a clause that could otherwise stand alone.

but I'm not sure the example words you gave actually agree with this statement. While they can arguably stand alone from a purely syntactic point of view, I'm not sure this is a useful definition of "stand alone" because they end up meaning something completely different. For example, with おく, its use as an auxiliary verb (when it comes attached to a テ形 verb) has a totally different meaning than its use as a standalone verb. Without getting into a debate about how to delineate words, I am pretty comfortable calling the auxiliary verb て+おく a different word from the transitive verbを+おく, and this pattern applies to some degree to all of your examples.

Even when separate clauses follow the テ形 verb, they are typically either a result of the preceding clause or sequentially come after it. See here. In your second sentence example, the second clause (買わなかった) is clearly causally linked to the first.

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