Don't understand when to use っ in te/ta conjugations

One of the things that trips me up the most in my reviews is that I usually never understand when to use the っ doubled consonant for te/ta conjugations.

For example, for “It’d be better to go home”, with 帰る as the verb at hand, how do I know if it’s かえたほうがいい or かえったほうがいい? This is one of many misunderstandings I have on a daily basis. Haven’t smashed up my keyboard yet but I may be a few mistakes away:))))


It depends on how you conjugate into long forms. If it ends with a -ru and, when you conjugate it, that ru turns into a ri - for example, kaerimasu - then you use a double consonant in -te and short past forms - so in your example, it would be kaetta. If it ends with an -u - for example, utau (to sing) - then it also becomes a double consonant - utatte, utatta, for example. There is also an exception, iku, which conjugates into itte/itta even though it’s a -ku ending -u verb.
Hope this helps! Sorry, I just got this and I’m not sure how to type in Japanese yet :confused:

I’d recommend doing some reading on godan vs ichidan verbs.



I don’t know if you’ve seen the ‘groups’ of verbs that non-native Japanese speakers use to learn Japanese, but to conjugate into て and た form, you should use the following rules:

Group 1: most verbs
~う becomes って/った e.g. 買う/買って/買った
~く becomes いて/いた e.g. 書く/書いて/書いた
~ぐ becomes いで/いだ e.g. 泳ぐ/泳いで/泳いだ
~す becomes して/した e.g. 直す/直して/直した
~つ becomes って/った e.g. 待つ/待って/待った
~ぬ becomes んで/んだ e.g. 死ぬ/死んで/死んだ
~ぶ becomes んで/んだ e.g. 叫ぶ/叫んで/叫んだ
~む becomes んで/んだ e.g. 噛む/噛んで/噛んだ
~る becomes って/った e.g. 腐る/腐って/腐った

Group 2: verbs ending in る but ONLY -eru and -iru (yes there are exceptions, I’ll get onto that at the end)
These are super easy - just remove る and add て or た.
e.g. 見る/見て/見た
e.g. 食べる/食べて/食べた

Group 3: exceptions
行く becomes

来(く)る becomes

する becomes

All group 1 verbs follow that exact pattern so you will have no problems if you learn it, but there are some verbs that would appear on the surface to be group 2, but in fact should be group 1. Off the top of my head, I can think of these:
Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule for these and you just have to learn them as ‘exceptions’ as and when you come across them in your daily life. Japanese people don’t learn it in this way so they will not understand how to explain the conjugation to you, and as far as I’m aware there is no definitive list of verbs that do not follow the group 2 rule. It can be frustrating but it’s surprising how naturally they come to you after a while.

Anyway, I hope this helps. Let me know if I haven’t explained something clearly enough.


A little graph I kept handy for myself when I was still getting used to conjugations.

る-verbs (ichidan): (verbs ending in either いる / える
る → て / た

う- verbs (godan): (verbs ending in う-column)
う、つ、る → って / った
ぶ、む、ぬ → んで / んだ
く → いて / いた
ぐ → いで / いだ
す → して / した

Irregulars: (verbs that don’t follow the rules)
行く → 行って / 行った
来る → きて / きた
する → して / した

Common (annoying) Exceptions :
(verbs ending in いる / える, but conjugate as う-verbs (godan) regardless)

走る - to run
知る - to know
帰る - to return
要る - to need
切る - to cut
滑る - to slide
入る - to enter
返す - to return (something)
蹴る - to kick


This. You can memorize the exceptions in isolation, but the easiest way is to learn their - ます forms (which you’ll have to know anyways).

If the る turns into り in the ます stem (like かえ to かえます), it’s a godan verb, and uses って like other godan -る verbs.

An example of a -る verb that isn’t a godan verb is たべる, where the る is dropped and the polite form is たべます. So the て form must be たべて.

Other than the -る verbs, which can be godan or ichidan, and the irregular verbs, it’s just a matter of memorizing what termination to use, and mattd1989 and deltacat3 have already provided tables for that.

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thank you!!!

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But surely this would present exactly the same problem. @IlaiA was asking how to tell which verbs to conjugate with て and which to conjugate with って. The question could well have been “How do I know whether to put ます or ります?” because it’s the same problem and my answer would have been exactly the same - these are the rules and here are the exceptions. There aren’t that many exceptions and I honestly found it easier to simply learn them. There aren’t that many and it doesn’t take up a massive amount of time. Also once you know the exceptions it becomes super easy to conjugate them into any other form for other grammar points.
@deltacat3 gave a much more comprehensive list of exceptions than I did and I think it is pretty thorough. I certainly can’t think of any more. If you could just spend half an hour learning those exceptions you’ll be set.

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I find that memorizing an abstract list of words detached from any context is harder than relying on something more easily drawn from memory. Besides, when using the ます form, I can rely on the words’ sound to tell me how its て is formed. It’s easy to think of “帰ます” and know it’s wrong, for instance, especially after hearing that word so many times.

But again, it’s just what I find to be better. I’m not saying memorizing the exceptions is impossible, just that I find it harder to deal with words in isolation.


You’ve effectively memorized it if you sound out the ます form to see which feels right. There’s nothing wrong with this extra step, and I still do it from time to time as well. But eventually it shouldn’t be necessary most of the time.

I feel like many of these exceptions are incredibly common, so as long as people read they should get used to them quickly. (I’m thinking of 帰る, 入る, and 要る right now.). Less common ones can just be learned as you see them.

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I hear what you’re saying and if it works for you then fair enough.
I will give a health warning though… I am and always have been dead against focusing on ます form because it gives learners of Japanese the impression that it’s actually how Japanese people talk to each other and they end up in a rut. I think ます should be learned as ‘the polite form for when you’re not talking casually’ but not as anything else. I believe the plain form should always be learned first.
I know so many people who are fantastic with grammar - much better than me - but because they have always focused on the ます form from when they started learning, they can’t have a proper conversation with a Japanese friend. This puts up so many social barriers and makes it difficult to socialise effectively.
Sorry I know I’ve gone a bit off-topic here, so going back to the original question, my advice stands that even if you struggle remembering vocabulary with no context (in this case no specific grammar rule) I genuinely believe it’s worth working that little bit harder in the long run. Remember, we learn words with no context every single day on BunPro and WK (and in daily life for those of us who live in Japan) in the form of example sentences, conversations, lessons, etc, so I don’t think learning 10 or so verb exceptions is that bad.


Okay, look, when you say that it’s about working harder, it sounds almost mean-spirited. I’m going to assume you didn’t mean it that way and try to explain where I’m coming from.

I have a terrible memory, and so do many of the people I’ve met in my Japanese learning journey. It’s why memorizing n verbs that are ichidan or godan from a list is so hard, because without any information to corroborate that list, I’m in trouble as soon as my memory starts to fail. “Was x verb on the list, or…?”

That’s what it comes down, to building knowledge in a way that you can use one piece of knowledge to validate another when in doubt. In that sense, seanblue is right when he calls it an extra step. It’s a more roundabout way of doing it, but also safer. 要る is not ichidan not because it’s in a godan list I memorized, but because its ます stem is 要り, and I know that because ます stem appears in other contexts. It’s called the 連用形 in Japanese, and is used in several grammar points, though you probably already know this since your level is much higher than mine.

On the subject of prioritizing the ます form: yes, I agree it’s a bad idea, and the reason why its bad goes much beyond just focusing on polite Japanese. People who teach ます first do not cover the nuances of the language, often opting for shortcuts that falsely approximate Japanese and English. I’ve seen ます described as the present form while the dictionary form was described as an infinitive, something that sounds cute at first, but that cripples the student’s understanding of the language in the long term. Just like when people don’t explain what a topic is and people can’t tell the difference between は and が.

As you said, this is a tangent. It’s just that, as much as I don’t like it when learning materials focus on polite language, I don’t think telling people to stay away from ます is a good idea, either. In the end, it’s not something you can choose not to learn. Bunpro teaches both, and I think it does a great job. And hey, since you have to learn both things, why not have one piece of knowledge reinforce the other?

Whew. I didn’t think such a small piece of advice would be so controversial. Then again, it’s much like when I recommend Wanikani to people. Either they know exactly where I’m coming from and what weaknesses WK covers, or they berate me for wasting time and money on a “useless” service. Different people learn things differently, have more difficulty with some things, and that’s why I felt my advice was worth sharing.


I suppose I went the traditional route with more ます learning in the beginning from books while being entirely loss when listening to conversation that was mostly casual in tone. Then when I got practicing conversation more, the less laborious causal forms just came out more naturally and helped fill the gap a bit more. However, I’ve been snapped at for not using ます form when talking to older people. If I forget, I try to land a phrase with a です if possible :flight_arrival: :sweat_smile: Of course this all a work in progress.

Guess you got to learn everything no matter how over-engineered the language gets! Plus the tolerance for not using polite/keigo becomes less when people know you are making a choice (rather than grasping for straws in a desperation to communicate).

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@lbtnunes First of all let’s get this out of the way, this is a conversation about Japanese grammar, so use of words like ‘mean-spirited’ and ‘controversial’ should probably be left out of here. You assumed correctly and therefore there was no reason to mention it. Let’s just forget about that now.

Yes, I too have a terrible memory, especially when it comes to Japanese words because there are so few sounds and I will often get kana the wrong way around when I learn a new word or grammar point. It is a horrible thing that I’ll constantly be going through even if I’m in Japan for the rest of my life fingers crossed :joy:
And yes, memorising from a list is also pretty difficult for me if I don’t have any context, or if the list is unconnected (e.g. I’m far more likely to be able to remember the word for an animal if it’s being taught amongst words for other animals.)

Yes of course, if you’re using it as an extra step, I 100% agree with you that it’s a fantastic way to validate (although you might not have time for this step if you’re having a conversation with someone and have literally a split second to think) but I honestly think that the thought process should go to the base form first, then the stem to validate it.
Part of the reason that I think in this case learners should learn from a short list first, is that not all verbs will be learned in simple ます form. For example, you are likely to learn 帰る/帰ります pretty early, and you are also likely to learn 知る pretty early. However, although 知ります is grammatically correct, nobody ever says it - everyone says 知ってます. Therefore, it’s the same problem, just reversed. Hence why I truly believe that for Japanese learners, learning the conjugation of each word first is fundamental.

I also 100% agree that telling people to stay away from ます is a bad idea, what I don’t like is encouraging learners to use it as their base for when they conjugate. I also don’t like the term ‘ます form’ because you might as well call it ‘ながら form’ or ‘やすい/にくい form’ or something else that uses the same pattern. You’re right in using the term ‘stem’ - I honestly believe that that is how it should be learned, without even referring to ます.

I didn’t know the term 連用形 before, so thanks for that! Please don’t assume that because my BP level is higher, I must be better at Japanese, the BP level is just an indication of how much time you have spent on the site. For all I know, you could be a Japanese genius! :joy:

Hopefully that’s cleared up why I think the way I do about thinking in terms of ます. It’s a 100% necessary thing to know. I use it every day working in a Japanese office, but then I have to know how to settle down with my friends later on. I think the fact that I don’t have many gaijin friends really helps me in that journey, because I’m always hanging out with Japanese people and speaking Japanese a good 90% of the time (if you don’t count my English lessons :joy:)

@s1212z I also went down that ‘traditional’ route, which is partly why I am so against it now, because I did my degree in Japanese and so many of my friends just can’t have a casual conversation, because all the Japanese they use is from their textbook. Ending the phrase with です has saved my skin a couple of times too! :joy:

Yes I absolutely understand what you mean. Back when I was around early N3 level, so many people would let me off using casual form, but now I’m fairly fluent, they are less tolerant of me. I still do make that mistake all the time though! I also intentionally push the boundaries sometimes, like with colleagues who are older than me but with whom I have a good relationship. I have one colleague who I even adopted as my ‘Japanese Mum’ - she is basically my boss but we never speak formally to each other any more! :wink:

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Was anyone here actually encouraging that though? People sometimes mention ます to mean stem/連用形, but that doesn’t mean they are encouraging ます to be the starting point for other conjugations.


Sorry I didn’t mean that. What I meant was that it’s the first thing that’s taught, so learners will regularly think of ます as the plain form rather than as a polite form.

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For posterity’s sake here is the Definitive Te form video.

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Hey :grin:

You can try the memory palace method, to improve your memorizing speed!

I am personally using it, and it works amazingly!