I understand that てる and てます are basically shortened versions of ている and ています, but if you are supposed talking "formally"/"polite" why would you use a shortened version?

  • 2
    You probably don't avoid the words 'don't' or 'can't' talking to bosses, teacher etc. I imagine?
    – Angelos
    Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 8:27
  • Politeness and formality are not the same concept, though they may overlap. It's not strange to speak informally in a polite way.
    – Leebo
    Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 8:35
  • when would you speak like this before talking informally/short form
    – Infernoboy
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


てる and てます are very common and safe in ordinary workplaces when you are speaking Japanese. You can even combine it with honorific verbs and say something like 見てらっしゃいます. But they are generally avoided when you are writing something formally. Also, when you are giving a formal speech with a microphone in front of dozens of people, it's safer to avoid this contraction even if it's spoken.

In general, you cannot explain an expression's register using a single axis. We need to use different adjectives that are related but different, such as "honorific", "polite", "written", "formal", "stilted" and "pompous". If I have to choose a single adjective to describe てる/てます, I would choose "colloquial", which is related to but not exactly the same as "informal".

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