てみる, てしまう, ておく - Te Form in Japanese

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'てみる, てしまう, ておく - Te Form in Japanese'

Anna Baffa Volpe

11 min reading time

Today we see together one of the uses of the te form of the verb in the expressions てみる、てしまう、ておく.

These are forms of common use in everyday life and conversation in Japan. We will also see variations of the same forms in informal contexts.


Let's first review the grammar rule to get the te form.

te form

For the ichidan verbs, single base, it is sufficient to omit the final syllable る and add て:

  • ()る, remove る and get () + て: ()
  • ()きる, remove る and get ()き + て: ()きて
()
()
()
()きる
()
()

For the godan verbs we have 4 groups instead. We suggest to read the section that deals in detail with the various forms. Here are some representative examples:

  • (すわ)る becomes (すわ)って
  • ()く becomes ()いて
  • ()む becomes ()んで
  • (はな)す becomes (はな)して

てみる - Try to do something

The first use sees the form in て combined with the verb ()る which means see, look, observe and is used every time you try to do something.

()(まえ)(かん)()()いてみた。

I tried to write the name in kanji .

()(ほん)()ったら、()(もの)()てみたいだ。

When I go to Japan, I would like to try wearing a kimono .

  • In this sentence we used the form in たい, which expresses the desire to do something
(ため)し is the proof, the experiment, the test

With the form てみる you often find the adverb (ためし)しに written generally in hiragana ためしに, to try.

Aこのパン()さんは(にん)()があるんだって!Bじゃあ、ためしにパンを()ってみようよ!

A: This bakery seems to be very popular. B: So let's buy some bread to try it!

If we want to explain てみる with a Japanese sentence, we can say:

()いか(わる)いか()かりませんが(ため)してみる。

I don't know if it's good or bad, good or bad, but I try .

クッキーを()いたから、ためしに()べてみて!

I made some cookies, come on try them!

We are expressing attempts that are made, the outcome is not known, but what matters is to try to do the action or to suggest to the other person to perform the action regardless of the result.

(あたら)しいうどん()()()たそうだよ!ちょっと()ってみようか。

I heard they opened a new restaurant in udon. Shall we try it?

  • In the sentence we find the form みようか, in its polite form みましょうか, widely used when you want to invite someone to do something or for a suggestion.
  • (でん)()してみようか: (what do you say) let's try to call?
()(まえ)までは()からなかった。()()使(つか)って(じゅう)(しょ)調(しら)べてみた。

I didn't know the person's name. I tried to find the address using a map .

しまう - To end up doing something

The second use of the te form involves the union with the verb しまう, the form てしまう and てしまいます in its polite version.

It is used to express:

  • An action that has been completed completely
  • An accidental action, without a real will on the part of the subject
  • An action or event that generates regret
(つか)れが()たので、()てしまった。

I felt tired and ended up going to bed .

The sense is that there was no real intention to go to sleep, but from exhaustion I ended up going to bed.

昨日(きのう)()ったケーキは、(ぜん)()()べてしまった。

I ate all the cake I bought yesterday .

This sentence expresses the completion of an action, in Japanese (かん)(りょう) (kanryō) and we can add that the verbs used in these cases they are called ()()(どう)() ishi dōshi and refer to intentional actions:

  • ()() is the intention and the will and (どう)() the verb

Contracted forms of てしまう

This form has a contracted version that is used in a confidential and informal context:

  • ちゃう and じゃう for the present tense
  • ちゃった and じゃった for the past tense

How do I decide whether to use ちゃう or じゃう?

  • I add ちゃう if the verb ends with the form in te て
  • I add じゃう if the verb ends with the form in de で
()(ぶん)(しょう)(めい)(しょ)()くしちゃった。

I ended up losing my identity card .

Here we are talking about an event that happened, obviously there was no will on the part of the subject, it happened, an inconvenience occurred.

Here is a sentence taken from an advertising of some sweets:

()べちゃいたいほど(ちょう)かわいいスイーツ5(せん)

Five super cute sweets you will want to eat .

  • We have the colloquial, confidential form ちゃう which is conjugated and expressed with the suffix たい expressing a wish and thus becomes: verbal base + ちゃいたい
  • its form with しまう is instead しまいたい、 ()べしまいたい
(だい)(せつ)()(けい)(こわ)れてしまいました。

My valuable clock broke .

This type of sentence expresses the feeling of (こう)(かい) regret and of (ざん)(ねん) disappointment and in these cases it is involuntary actions ()()()(どう)() muishi dōshi:

()(こく)してしまった。

I'm late.

This sentence is literally I ended up arriving late and also expresses regret for an action where there was no will on the part of the subject.

ておく - Do something in advance, prepare for

The third expression we see is the te form + the verb おく: ておく.

ておく is used whenever we anticipate something to facilitate and favor subsequent events, subsequent developments linked to that thing, to that action.

(とも)(だち)(あそ)びに()るので、ケーキを()っておく。

Since friends will come to visit me, I'll buy a cake (for the occasion) .

おく as a verb has the meaning of put, so the sentence has the meaning of:

  • since some friends will come, I buy a cake and keep it there
  • I don't know if they will like it, but in the meantime, for safety, I buy it and keep it at home
A word that expresses the use of ておく is (じゅん)(), the preparations

Leave things as they are

そのままにする expresses the sense of this use well: leave as it is, in the position in which it is.

(あつ)いですから、(まど)()けておいてください。

Since it's hot, leave the window open .

The key verb in this case is (ほう)()する, leave the situation as it is

A note:

ておく is a form used in the first person, by the speaker and not by third parties. We can say:

  • (わたし)がケーキを()っておく: I buy a cake (in anticipation of my friends coming)
  • and not (かれ)がケーキを()っておく

Contracted form of ておく

In a colloquial and confidential context, we can use the contracted form of ておく which becomes とく.

()べておく
()とく
()んでおく
()どく
しておく
とく
()ておく
()とく

The form ~ておく is thus used for actions that are undertaken early for a precise purpose and objective. It is therefore used for intentional actions, with verbs called ()()(どう)().

ドライブに()(まえ)に、ガソリンを()れておく。

Before leaving, I'll get petrol.

Other examples with intentional actions:

(だい)()(こと)をメモしておいた。

I have noted important points .

(ほう)(もん)する(まえ)には(とも)(だち)(でん)()をしておいたほうが()いだ。

Before your visit, it is best to make a phone call to friends (who visit) .

Let's see an example that shows a situation of (じゅん)(), preparations, things we do in advance to facilitate future developments.

コンサートのチケットはすぐ()れきれだから、1(ねん)(まえ)()っておいた。

As concert tickets sell outquickly, we bought them 1 year earlier.

There is also a sense of precaution, prevention in this form.

(けい)(たい)(じゅう)(でん)がなくならないように、(じゅう)(でん)しておく。

I keep my phone charged to avoid running down.


We have seen examples and applications of the 3 forms てみる, てしまう and ておく. The advice is to apply the various expressions, try to formulate your own sentences even in everyday and informal contexts.

ありがとうございました。 また ()(かい)に! Thanks and see you next time!

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