Compound Sentence

Sequential and Parallel Actions: …て, …たり, and …し

and: ...て

You have entered a new section: Compound Sentences. In English, there are basically two ways to connect sentences. The first is to place conjunctions, e.g. “I will go to the park and my brother will go to the library.” The second is to utilize subordinate clauses, e.g. “I will watch a movie once my mother has gone to bed.” In Japanese, we express compound sentences by making conjugations. Thus, we will show you important sentence patterns one by one. In this lesson, you will learn how to express sequential and parallel actions.

Explanation for How to Express Sequential and Parallel Actions

Table of Contents
Sequential Actions or States
The Te-form of Adjectives and Nouns
Parallel Actions or States
…たり…たりする: Parallel Markers for Verbs and Adjectives
…し: Listing Multiple Reasons

Sequential actions indicate that an action is accompanied with another, e.g. “the car suddenly made a loud sound and stopped.” With this example, we can say that the “stop” is the main event and “make a sound” is the sub-event. By contrast, parallel actions indicate that each action is independent and there is no difference in priority.

The Te-form: Expressing Both Sequential and Parallel Actions

Sequential Actions or States

[わたしは] さかなって 寿司すしを(つくった / つくりました)
First Action Second Action
[I] bought a fish and made Sushi.

The te-form allows you to combine two verbs or more and express sequence of actions or states. “、” is sometimes placed after the te-form if you find sentences are difficult to read, but the nuance won’t change. You can roughly consider the te-form in this context as “and” or “then.”

いえかえってはんを(べる / べます)。
[I] will go home and eat a meal.
部屋へやそうして、ゴミを(てた / てました)。
[I] cleaned [my] room and disposed of the trash.

Sequential actions or states can indicate reasons (causation) and means. In this context, please forget the translation “and” and “then,” and focus on the relation between the first part and the second part. The first part, expressed by the te-form, results in the second part.

[I] was happy that [you] helped [me].
タクシーにってえきまで(った / きました)。
[I] went to the station by taking a taxi.
The Te-form of Adjectives and Nouns

You can also conjugate adjectives and nouns into the te-form and combine them. Regarding the conjugation, you just add で after nouns and na-adjectives. With i-adjectives, you utilize the negative form and attach て instead of ない. Combinations between adjectives or nouns and verbs are applicable as the third example shows.

からくて美味おいしいカレー(だ / です)。
[It] is a spicy and delicious curry.
じょうおもいドア(だ / です)。
[It] is a firm and heavy door.
あめつよくてそとられ(ない / ません)。
The rain is strong, so [I] cannot go out.

Parallel Actions or States

 わたしほんべんきょうして いもうとえいべんきょう(する / します)
Parallel Action Parallel Action
I will study Japanese and my younger sister will study English.

The te-form can also express parallel actions or states. If there are two topics or subjects like the above example, we don’t usually omit them. This function is also applicable for nouns and adjectives.

今日きょうはたくさんべてんだ / みました)。
As for today, [I] ate and drank a lot.
My younger sister is pretty and smart.
なかさんは女優じょゆうしゅ(だ / です)。
Tanaka-san is an actress and a singer.

Here is an exception. You can connect adjectives without using the te-form if two adjectives are different categories. That is to say, adjectives are categorized into three groups: the first is “Amount” and “Kind,” e.g. “おおい: many” and “various: いろんな.” The second is “Subjective Judgments,” e.g. “き: to like” and “いい: good.” The third is “Attributes,” e.g. “おおきい: big” and “あたらしい: new.” When you use two adjectives from different groups, you can directly connect them.

これがわたしきなあまいケーキ(だ / です)。
This is the sweet cake that I like.
いろんなふるくるまが(ある / あります)。
There are various old cars.

Conjunctive Form (連用形れんようけい

 いえかえ、ごはんを(べる / べます)
タクシーにえきまで(った / きました)
 わたしほんべんきょう、 いもうとえいべんきょう(する / します)
から美味おいしいカレー(だ / です)
あめつよそとられ(ない / ません)

In order to make your speech more formal, you can replace the te-form with a form called “Conjunctive Form” or “Continuative Form.” Depending on grammar guides, the terminology will change and thus please focus on the conjugation, which is fortunately very simple. This is applicable for only verbs and i-adjectives. You just drop ます from the polite form of verbs and ない from the negative form of i-adjectives.

Polite Form (Verb) Conjunctive Form Negative Form (Adj) Conjunctive Form
ます 可愛かわいくない 可愛かわい
べます さむくない さむ
みます よくない よく
います ふるくない ふる
します つよくない つよ
ます からくない から

…たり…たりする: Parallel Markers for Verbs and Adjectives

あかちゃんは きゅう いたおこった(する / します)
Topic/Subject Adverb Verb
Babies suddenly get angry and cry (and do something else).

This is the counterpart to the parallel marker や which is for nouns. The function is to list multiple actions or states, but imply that there remains something unlisted. The conjugation is to utilize the ta-form and attach り. One important point here is that the last verb or adjective has to be with する like たりする. This is applicable for adjectives and nouns with state-of-being, too.

ほんんだいた(する / します)。
[I] read books and draw pictures (and do something else).
温泉おんせんった寿司すしべた(した / しました)。
[I] went to the hot spring, and ate Sushi (and did something else).
かあさんはこわかったやさしかった(する / します)。
[My] mother is scary and tender (and something else).

You can use たり with a single verb or adjective. This usage often appears when you want to imply something.

タバコはびょう原因げんいんになった(する / します)よ。
Lit. Tobacco becomes a cause of sickness (and something else).
なかさんはよく宿題しゅくだいわすれたして(いる / います)。
Tanaka-san often forgets his homework (and does something else).

You can express “He/She sometimes does X, but sometimes doesn’t” by using the plain and the negative form.

べんきょうたのしかったたのしくなかった(する / します)。
Studying is sometimes fun, but sometimes not fun.
なかさんは学校がっこうなかった(する / します)。
Tanaka-san sometimes comes, but sometimes doesn’t come to school.

…し: Listing Multiple Reasons

なかさんはあたまがいい 先生せんせいいて(いる / います)
Reason Conclusion
Tanaka-san is smart (and something else), so he/she is suitable for a teacher.

The function is to list multiple reasons, but imply that there remains something unlisted. You can attach し to any parts of speech without conjugation, but nouns and na-adjectives need to be the state-of-being style, like 日本人だし and 元気だし. Just like り, you can also use this for a single reason while implying that there are other reasons.

つかれているねむいえに(かえろう / かえりましょう)。
[I] am tired, sleepy (and something else), so let’s go home.
やさしい丁寧ていねいなかさんはいいひと(だ / です)。
Tanaka-san is tender, polite (and something else), so he is a good person.
あめってきた、カフェに(かない / きませんか)?
[It] has rained (and something else), so won’t [you] go to a café?

Other Usage

…し also has a function to just list some items like the te-form and たり. The difference is that し indicates a nuance like “Not only A, but also B.” Take a look at the following comparison.

[I] not only don’t have money, but [I] also don’t have time.
[I] don’t have money or time.
[I] don’t have money, time (or something else).

There are a few exceptions. The typical one is that し can express contrast with a particular word: かもしれない.

[I] may or may not go to school.


  1. The te-form can express both sequential and parallel actions or states.
  2. The conjunctive form is interchangeable with the te-form, but sounds formal.
  3. たりする is a parallel marker for verbs and adjectives.
  4. …し can list multiple reasons.

The first lesson in the compound sentences section has been done. You might be surprised with the fact that Japanese can connect sentences with various nuances by not using conjunctions. Japanese certainly has conjunctions just like English does, however it is more common to use conjugations than conjunctions when connecting sentences. Thus, we will focus on that way here. Next, you will learn how to express negative sequential and parallel actions.

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