Omitted て When Joining Sentences

In written Japanese, I have come across a number of examples of sentences that are joined and appear to be missing a “て”. Since such an omission appears to be common, but also doesn’t seem to be mentioned in any textbook or grammar guide that I have looked in (though finding an omission is harder than finding an actual phrase), and I can’t seem to find this mentioned previously in the forum, I want to ask if I am understanding things correctly.

As a simple example, I can use a sentence from the beginning of 千と千尋の神隠し:
千尋は、友だちからもらった、おわかれの花たばをにぎりしめ、うかない顔をしています。
Since we are in Wanikani, the Crabigator’s realm of Kanji, one should be able to substitute:
千尋は、友達からもらった、お別れの花束を握りしめ、浮かない顔をしています。
to make it more readable (千尋 is a name).

My issue is with the “握りしめ.” It seems like that should be “握りしめ” to joint two distinct clauses. Is it normal to omit the “て” in written Japanese? Presumably, a native speaker reading the sentence aloud would read it as written rather than automatically insert the missing “て”, so I am guessing that omitting the て is done to make things sound more like narration.

Maybe it’s omitting the connective て since the clauses are already separated by commas?

Yes, the form you’re referring to is called the 連用形 in Japanese (conjunctive form or continuative form) and it’s often called the ます-stem in resources for learners, because it’s the form that ます attaches to.

It has the same basic function for connecting sentences. It’s generally a more formal way to structure a sentence, so you’re more likely to see it in writing or formal speech. It could appear in some set expressions though.

It also has a benefit of being more restrictive than て. The て particle has a ton of meanings, and only one of them is “just connecting sentences”, so it can potentially be clearer to only use the conjunctive form.

Basically, て isn’t being omitted here. It’s just that we learn about adding て first as learners.

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I feel like a dummy for forgetting about this since I was recently introduced to the 連用形 in a Cure Dolly video, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t done much reading to come across it and let it really sink in. Most of the example compound sentences I’ve seen so far use the connective て.

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On the topic of connecting clauses, is there any practical difference between using the て form and the 連用形 to connect clauses? Any subtle meanings or implications, or is it purely a personal/stylistic choice that doesn’t make any semantic difference?

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Like I said, て has many meanings, such as indicating a reason or cause, indicating a method of something, or even suggesting a contrast.

連用形 doesn’t do those things… so if you want to imply them you would need て (or something else that does imply them).

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A while back I started a thread on writing report and manuscript in Japanese, which deals with all the rules and nuances about formal written Japanese. I haven’t updated it in a while but will do at least one post this week. The next one will be on 連用形 so please see if it interests you.

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