Question about negative-て

Hello everyone!

A good number of questions have come up when entering answers and trying to understand the concept behind the て-form. But to try to keep it concise:

When asked for “(please) don’t” that should be ないで, so even though ください can be omitted. When entering an answer for “I’m sorry for not” or “must do” that should start with なくて and it currently considers ないで as being incorrect (at least in the “sorry not” instance).

Should we consider ないで more of “don’t” and treat it as a different substance altogether from なくて ? Is it even relevant to understand the concept of “negative-て” as opposed to the various usages of て-forms? (EDIT: yes, it’s important and has a concept and usages, but it feels like something isn’t clear at all).

Thank you very much!


I THINK the difference is that "なくて” is is a negative て conjunction while ”ないで” is a negative て *imperative. * So, ないで is explicitly a command not to do something, while なくて[すみません] is more like “didn’t do this and [sorry]” That’s my understanding at least, I could be totally off-base. :smiley:
Edit: I’ll also add that I didn’t actually see this clarified on Bunpro, it’s just something I picked up from listening to native Japanese speakers.


@LoreTheCat @KaiMiang
Hey, なくて lessons will be added this week. :+1:

Verbs in Japanese have two negative forms (なくて and ないで), while adjectives and nouns only have one (なくて).

ないで has evolved so that it can be used for almost all uses of the non-negative て form, and can be translated as “not and” or “without”. However, なくて (when it comes to verbs) is mostly used to indicate reason or cause, very similar to non-negativeて form reason/cause usage, having the same limitations.

ないで can also express reason/cause, but the majority consider only なくて to be proper, so it is safer to stick to it.

Aてすみません de-facto expresses reason/cause relation “I am sorry because I did A”, so なくて is used with it. Many set expressions can be only used with なくて or ないで, so the best way is to just memorize them.

When it comes to adjectives and nouns, only なくて and it performs all functions negativeて form has, like linking multiple attributes, states, stating that something is not A, but B, expressing cause/reason etc.

I hope it makes it a bit more clear,


Hey and welcome on the community forums! :partying_face:

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This is a very big help and thank you very much! Imabi had some information about it (including only using なくて for nouns/adjectives), and the Japanese verb chart that was linked to the original did help (and did mention that one exception), but it left some holes and serious confusion too! If there are set expressions that can be only used one way then that’s perfectly fine!

It does mean that there is more to learn, and again, thank you VERY much!


Thank you!! And thank you for the clarification!! :smiley: