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-te form

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So this is probably a stupid question, but what is the -te form for exactly?
I'm just getting started with conjugation, and am struggling hard. I get the basic concept, just a lot of memorization.
But, -te form makes no sense. Everything I've been reading either acts like i should already be intimately familiar, or gives some long winded explanation which just makes for confusing ready.
 
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So this is probably a stupid question, but what is the -te form for exactly?
I think the easiest way to think of it is the the -te form means 'and' or 'and then'. In any case if there is a time order, the actions after the -te take place after the actions before the -te. (手を洗って晩御飯を食べた -> I washed my hands and then ate dinner.)
There are a bunch of other uses for the -te form, which is probably what is confusing you. However, those uses all have a more specific grammar - ~ている is a very common indicating a continuing action or state. (彼は晩御飯を食べている -> He is eating dinner).

It's easier (in my mind anyway) to learn these other uses as specific grammars. That is, to understand '-te form' itself just worry about the conjunction use. To understand other uses learn about the '-teiru' grammar, etc.
 
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What are you learning from?
My main tool is 'Human Japanese'. A few years back I made it about halfway through 'Japanese For Busy People' before giving up for a variety of reasons.
I tried Tae Kim's, but hated it. Also have 'Making Sense Of Japanese'. I've eyeballed Genki, since many people recommends it, but it seems really really focused on a classroom setting, not solo learning. (I'd love to take actual classes, but can't fit that into a full time work schedule, even if I was able to find any nearby)
 
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I think the easiest way to think of it is the the -te form means 'and' or 'and then'. In any case if there is a time order, the actions after the -te take place after the actions before the -te. (手を洗って晩御飯を食べた -> I washed my hands and then ate dinner.)
There are a bunch of other uses for the -te form, which is probably what is confusing you. However, those uses all have a more specific grammar - ~ている is a very common indicating a continuing action or state. (彼は晩御飯を食べている -> He is eating dinner).

It's easier (in my mind anyway) to learn these other uses as specific grammars. That is, to understand '-te form' itself just worry about the conjunction use. To understand other uses learn about the '-teiru' grammar, etc.
One thing I wasn't getting is when I would use ~masu vs ~te. They both seemed to do the same thing. The time concept does help to make sense of when I want to use ~te, Thank you.
 
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From what example(s) do you get this impression? (They are completely different both in meaning and usage, btw.)
From the conjunction charts... Both have present tense, past tense, etc. But no real explanation on usage. Just show the chart, and a sentence, but no visible reason why you couldn't just use the other one.
Example sentences would make both say, hairimasu and haitte, seem like they both just mean 'entering' They failed to make clear the 'after' aspect of ~te.
 

Mike Cash

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From what I can gather, Human Japanese is a piece of crap on par with Rosetta Stone for inadequate explanation. Get a real textbook.
 
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Genki and Minna no Nihongo are both good choices for self-study. Both have companion audio that is important for developing listening comprehension before you're ready to listen to native materials.

I like the explanations in Modern Japanese quite a lot, however it seems quite difficult to use for self-study and has no companion audio. (I read through it after having completed Minna no Nihongo and was already reading Manga and attempting to read light novels, so wasn't using it as a beginner) ... however, people have successfully used it for self-study.

I've heard good things about Japanese the Manga Way but have no experience with it, and also it's obviously aimed at people who's primary interest is learning to read manga.

I've never heard anything good about Japanese for Busy People or Human Japanese. Most people abandon them for Genki or Minna. "Making Sense of Japanese" I also don't have experience with, but a lot of people say they found value in it -- but as a follow-up to a textbook course, not to replace a textbook.
 
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I think you guys may be right about Human Japanese. Went skimming for examples, and the ~te specific stuff I found was just a small list of verbs and their ~te form.
And: (excuse the romaji, I'm typing this in notepad).
tabete kudasai : Please eat
mite kudasai : Please look
My other stuff was from random Googling, so not sure where I was reading stuff now.
Everything else seems to be all ~masu form. I still think it does a good job of the basics, but does seem lacking in the great details.

Japanese For Busy People I got mainly because it was all Borders really had at the time.
The ~$50 pricetag on Genki and Minna have been a turnoff, but it seems I may have to bite the expensive bullet.
I just really hate how, from what I've seen, its all 'Do this with your classmates, have classmate such and such'. Are there good answer keys and such in the books? Kind of pointless to do 'class work' if I have no teacher to grade it or clasmates to critique my work.
 
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Mike Cash

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@wizcoder does the exercises in Genki, posts his answers here, and we help him with them. There is no reason you can't do the same if you would like a hand with it.

In addition to the textbook and audio I believe there is also a workbook available.
 
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Minna no Nihongo and Modern Japanese have many answers in the back. I believe Genki has a separate answer book.

You don't have to pay $50 ... look for used copies and you should be able to pay half that. The only thing I'd say is make sure the CD is still included or at least factor in picking up the CD separately into which used price is better.

-te kudasai is another of those 'more specific' grammars I mentioned. It's the pattern for how you use 'kudasai' with verbs. Trying to understand such patterns (te + auxiliary verb, te + particle, etc.) in terms of the meaning of 'te form' is an exercise in frustration imo.

A lot of things in Japanese are like this - the pattern has a meaning that can't be easily understood from the pieces that make it.
Save yourself the frustration and learn the patterns as self-contained structures and don't try to break them down too far. It's not practical. If you're the sort of person that likes that kind of thing then later on you can learn about classical Japanese and how and where the modern patterns developed from -- but first you have to learn enough Japanese to be able to read about that kind of thing in Japanese.
 
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