Reinforcing Grammar (Te Form, Short Form, Past Tense Short Form)

I’ve just got to Chapter 9 (Past Tense Short Form) of Genki I and have now had to go back to Chapter 6 (Te Form) and Chapter 8 (Short Form) because none of it is sticking.

It seems they are all reliant on having a good foundation of the prior which I thought I had because I’ve already gone back and re-read these chapters before, but it just isn’t sticking.

I can’t remember the Te form, so then I can’t figure out the short form.
Or I can remember the Te form, but can’t remember the short form, so then I can’t figure out the past tense short form.

It’s driving me insane, and any advice such as techniques or apps for this sort of thing would be greatly appreciated.

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This is what I’ve been doing.


I’ve never learnt Genki’s terminology, so I’m not too clear on what you mean by “short form”. Is that what other sources call “plain form” or “dictionary form”? That is, 食べます > 食べる? (Pretty sure Genki starts with ます-form.)

That said, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to transform from ます-form to て-form to plain form, so perhaps I’ve guessed wrong.

The pattern for て-form of う-verbs is:

う つ る > って
む ぶ ぬ > んで
く > いて
ぐ > いで
す > して

For る verbs, just knock off the る and add て. For the irregulars:

くる > きて
する > して
行く > 行って


The heck is short form

Like 言わせる to 言わす?

食べられる to 食べれる?

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Probably this:

I googled “Genki 1 short forms”


I still mess these up tbh but I have gotten better through immersion. Actually seeing them being used in the shows that I watch and the graded readers I have started, I can respond better to my tutor when asked a question. (I do review every now and then but the amount of time I spend reviewing grammar that I will forget unless I see them in practice, has been drastically reduced).

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But they are actually the same (just change て with た).

( As viewed by Japanese, the “form” of the conjugatable words does not include the sufixes. There is not “two conjugated forms (-te and -ta)” but only one that applies when the sufix is for verbs た、て、たら (but not たい). That form is often called テ形 (“te form”) but in the sense that “it is the form you use to attach て”, it doesn’t actually include the suffix.)


I’ve never liked it when people introduce the polite form of verbs before their plain form (what Genki calls short form), and I’m wondering if that’s part of what’s causing this confusion. The most basic form of “to eat” is 食べる, not 食べます. Then you conjugate it to various other forms starting from 食べる, like 食べて, たべた, たべます, etc.


Well, the ます-form-first approach does have some advantages: everything conjugates the same, and it’s pretty much all you need to know in order to function in Japan as a tourist. But yeah, introducing the rules of plain form afterwards sorta requires you to do things backwards.


The te-form will stick eventually. If you mostly consume content, and don’t produce it much, you won’t need to know the conjugations by heart anyways. And consuming enough content will make you remember them better either way.


My suggestion is:

(1) Write out what each kind of verb ending does (for this you are best off starting with the dictionary/short form, not the masu form) so you can see the patterns
(2) then drill writing them out periodically

That is, make sure you understand how the conjugation system works, even if you don’t have it memorized yet; then memorize it. After that exposure and use will move it from “have to think a bit” to “just know it”.

The only things that you need to remember as a per-verb thing are (1) くる and する, because they’re totally irregular (2) 行く is very slightly irregular as @Belthazar notes (3) whether verbs ending in (e- or i-)る are like 食べる → 食べます or like 帰る → 帰ります.

If you want a different explanation of how conjugation works than Genki’s, you could try the tofugu article. Same information, but it’s starting from the dictionary form and it tries to highlight the patterns and regularities.


Genki is a bit annoying in this respect, it made me feel like verb conjugation in Japanese is much more difficult than it is. Starting from the -masu form and then figuring out the dictionary form is needlessly confusing.

I had installed Japanese Conjugation City on my phone to practice conjugations, and it does exactly what it advertises, but I didn’t end up using it much. Te forms eventually stick through immersion without having to learn nearly anything, at least they did for me.

But here’s a Cure Dolly video on how it works, in case you find it more helpful than Genki.


Thank you everyone for the amazing responses. There’s lots here to unpack and work on so I’ll get on it.


I found a lot of the difficulty I had with remembering grammar went away after I started reading native material. Initially, I still forgot things and had to look up and re-learn the same grammar a few times each, but over time pattern recognition (repeatedly seeing the same grammar in different contexts) kicked in and I was recognizing it without realizing it.

But native material is difficult to start reading because it contains grammar you haven’t learned yet. It requires being able to learn grammar outside of following a textbook.

I think it’s worth giving a try to reading native material and learning extra grammar along the way, as a supplement to continuing going through Genki. This give more exposure to the grammar Genki covers.

To that end, you may want to check out the Absolute Beginner Book Club, which is starting a new manga in a few weeks, then an extra-easy one a few months after that.

This book club is great because the expectation is that you’re encountering a lot of unknown grammar and vocabulary, and you can ask questions, get answers, and read others’ questions and answers, to turbocharge your learning along the way. You can follow along at the club’s pace, or go a little slower if you need to.

Worst case scenario, you decide you want to learn some more grammar before trying the manga again. (But don’t fall into the trap of expecting you can fully understand native material before you start reading native material!)

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For Te-form, I watched this video and sang along until I got absolutely sick of it. Haven’t forgotten Te-form since :joy: It’s from Miku Real Japanese’s Youtube video “What is Te form (てform) and how to conjugate it?” which also has excellent explanations + examples for practice


Looks like I’m gonna be listening to this non-stop on my walks to and from work for the foreseeable future. Thanks!


Hey hey I got an update for you. Japanese with Misa really makes te form seems easier than my online tutor and I enjoy classes with him. I know a lot of people have talked about her and I just never watched until last week and Im like why didnt my tutor teach me this way??!!

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