Japanese Grammar

Utilization of the Te-form: てしまう, てある, ておく, and てみる

Resultant State with てある

Last time, you learned how to express the beginning, the middle, and the end of actions: りょうつくはじめた・つくっているところだ・つくわった. You have almost completed Japanese tense and aspect. In this lesson, we will pick up the rest of them. And don’t worry, all of them can be expressed by using the single form: te-form.

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Explanation for How to Utilize the Te-form for Various Expressions

Table of Contents
…てしまう: Complete Actions or Unintentional Actions
…てある: Resultant States
…ておく: Preparatory Actions
…てみる: Trial Actions

As you have already learned, the te-form can be a base for other expressions in terms of conjugation. If you attach いる to the te-form, you can express progressive tense, resultant states, customary actions, and experience. Just like that, you can express various things by attaching other phrase to the te-form.

…てしまう: Complete Actions or Unintentional Actions

おとうと すぐに 菓子かし べて(しまった / しまいました)
Topic/Subject Adverb Direct Object Te-form + しまう
[My] younger brother ate the pastry quickly and completely.

The first function is to express complete actions which are something like “to do something completely,” or “to have something done.” With the example above, we have applied the ta-form for しまう, but you can use this in the future tense, too.

おもってんで(しまう / しまいます)よ。
[I] will drink daringly.
すぐかたづけて(しまう / しまいます)ね。
[I] will have [it] tidied away right now.
しょうせつ一日いちにちんで(しまった / しまいました)。
[I] completely read the novel in a day.
宿しゅくだいはもうやって(しまった / しまいました)よ。
As for the homework, [I] had [it] done already.
[わたしは / が] まどガラスを って(しまった / しまいました)
[Topic/Subject] Direct Object Te-form + しまう
[I] have unintentionally broken the windowpane.

The second function is to express unintentional or regrettable actions. Although this function is totally different from the first one, we use the same form. Therefore, you need to judge whether which function しまう works as.

いて(しまう / しまいます)。
[I] will unintentionally cry.
怪我けがをして(しまう / しまいます)よ。
[You] will unintentionally injure yourself.
けいこわして(しまった / しまいました)。
[I] regrettably broke [my] watch.
いもうとかして(しまった / しまいました)。
[I] unintentionally made my younger sister cry.

てしまう has two colloquial expressions which are じゃう and ちゃう. You don’t have to use them, but should recognize when native speakers use them to you. The point here is that the replacement needs to include て and で, i.e. てしまう => ちゃう and でしまう => じゃう.

ちゃう / ちゃいます)。
けいこわちゃった / ちゃいました)。
おもってじゃう /  じゃいます)よ。
しょうせつ一日いちにちじゃった /  じゃいました)。

…てある: Resultant States

まど けて(ある / あります)
Subject Te-form + ある
The window is kept open (by someone).

We need to explain the concept here. First of all, …てある is always used with transitive verbs. If you plainly say the example above, you would say “まどける (I will open the window).” Then, the momentary action: ける would result in the state: まどけている (I kept the window open).” This is from your point of view. What if you express the resultant state from the third person’s point of view? You can say “まどけてある (The window is kept open). This is the function of …てある, which expresses resultant states given by someone. When you use this, the usage of particles matters. With the plain expression, the particle を is used because you kept the window open, i.e. the window is an object. However, when you see it from the third person’s point of view, the window is already open, i.e. the window is a subject. Therefore, the standard particle is が. Then, you can replace it with は and も depending on contexts.

ほんしょって(ある / あります)。
A Japanese dictionary is bought (and kept).
えいしょって(ある / あります)。
An English dictionary is also bought (and kept).
ちゅうごくしょって(いない / いません)。
A Chinese dictionary is not bought.

When transitive verbs have its counterparts in intransitive verbs. They can express very similar things. The difference is …てある implies that actions are taken by someone. Let’s see the comparison: く (intransitive) + te-form + いる vs. ける (transitive) + te-form + ある.

まどいて(いる / います)。
The window is open.
まどけて(ある / あります)。
The window is kept open (by someone).

There is a usage to use the particle を. That way, you generally express resultant states with a nuance of preparation. In this context, action takers are subjects. The followings are examples in conversation.

Q. How do you start studying Japanese?
[わたしは] ほんしょって(ある / あります)。
[I] bought a Japanese dictionary (for studying Japanese).
Q. Durian will strongly smell. Can I take it from the box?
(うん / はい)、[なかさんが] まどけて(ある / あります)。
Yes, Tanaka-san have opened the window (for letting the smell go out).

…ておく: Preparatory Actions

[わたしは / が] パンを って(おく / おきます)
[Topic/Subject] Direct Object Te-form + おく
[I] will buy breads (for the future).

The function is to express preparatory actions for the future. As you may notice, the meaning is very similar to てある with the particle を.

テストのふくしゅうをして(おく / おきます)。
[I] will review the test (for the future).
くるましゅうをして(おく / おきます)。
[I] will repair the car (for the future).
昨日きのうはたくさんて(おいた / おきました)。
[I] slept a lot yesterday (for the future).
ほんしょって(おいた / おきました)。
[I] bought a Japanese dictionary (for the future).

Difference between ておく and てある

ほんしょって(おいた / おきました)。
ほんしょって(ある / あります)。

Both of them essentially express “[I] bought a Japanese dictionary (for the future).” With the example of ておく, you have applied the ta-form for it. However, you don’t need to do so for …てある. It is because  …てある indicates resultant states while ておく indicates preparatory actions.

しょって(おく / おきます)。
[I] will buy a dictionary (for the future).
しょって(ある / あります)。
[I] bought a dictionary (for the future).

…てある is not suitable for expressing future tense because the form is exactly same as the one for past tense and just indicates states when momentary actions are already done (=resultant states).

…てみる: Trial Actions

[わたしは / が] 寿司すし べて(みた / みました)
[Topic/Subject] Direct Object Te-form + みる
[I] tried to eat Sushi.

The function is to express trial actions. This can be translated as “try to do” or “try something out” in English.

ほんって(みる / みます)。
[I] will try to buy a map of Japan.
えいて(みる / みます)。
[I] will try to watch a movie.
かんいて(みた / みました)。
[I] tried to write kanji.
ほん能力のうりょくけんけて(みた / みました)。
[I] tried to take JLPT.


  1. …てしまう expresses complete actions, or unintentional or regretful actions.
  2. …てある expresses resultant states.
  3. …ておく expresses preparatory actions.
  4. …てみる expresses trial actions.

From the above, you can see how important the te-form is. By utilizing the te-form, you can express a variety of things. We know the conjugation is not easy, but please try to memorize it properly. You will learn more and more uses in upcoming lessons. And so ends the last lesson in the tense and aspect section. Great job!

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