Te iku and te kuru can express:
- A physical movement in space;
- Consistency within an ongoing process;
- A change of state.
Sounds hard? Don’t worry, we’ll break this down step by step!
- Iku means “to go,” and kuru means “to come.”
- We use the “te form” to connect two verbs (two actions) done one after the other.
|Verb||Te-Form||+ いく (iku) / くる(kuru)||Te Iku / Te Kuru Verb Form|
|食べて (tabete)||いく (iku) / くる(kuru)||食べていく / くる|
|飲んで (nonde)||いく (iku) / くる(kuru)||飲んでいく / くる|
Let’s talk about each one more in detail!
1. ていく (Te Iku): Motion
Using a verb with te iku means “to do [verb] and go somewhere.” The subject does [verb] and then moves away from his or her current location. It expresses the subject’s physical movement.
(Gogo ni ame ga furu yō nanode, kasa o motte ikimasu.)
Since it seems it’s going to rain in the afternoon, I will take an umbrella. = I’m going out taking an umbrella with me.
(Asagohan o tabete iku.)
I’m going to eat breakfast and go.
(Bōshi o kabutte iku.)
I’ll put on a hat and go.
(Chīisai koro kara ryōshin ga itsumo ryokō ni tsurete itte kuremashita.)
My parents have brought me with them traveling since I was a little kid.
In the examples above, the final destination or the point towards which the subject is moving is rarely specified. Te iku is simply used to express the action of moving away from the present location to somewhere else.
2. ていく (Te Iku): Time
Besides expressing a physical movement in space, te iku can be used to describe a process or a change that has just started at a point in time we’re considering, in the present or the future.
We can use “from … on” in English to enhance the nuance expressed by the Japanese te iku.
1. もう6月だね！ これからどんどん気温が上がっていくね。
(Mō roku gatsu da ne! Korekara dondon kion ga agatte iku ne.)
It’s already June! Temperatures are going to be rising for sure from now on.
(Kotoshi wa yatto kansensha ga hette ikun darō ka.)
I wonder if the number of infected people will go down this year?
(Nenmatsu ni mukete shigoto ga isogashiku natte ikimasu.)
Toward the end of the year, my job is going to get busier.
By using te iku, the speaker implies that the action or process is supposed to go on consistently for a while.
3. ていった(Te Itta)
いった (itta) is the past form of いく (iku).
Te itta is used:
- To express an action and a motion from the current location, referring to the past.
(Kēki o tsukutte pātī ni motte itta.)
I made a cake and I brought it to the party.
- When the speaker imagines a point in the past and wants to describe a process that started at that moment and kept going on.
(Rokugatsu kara yukata no uriage ga nobite itta.)
Sales of yukata (kimono for summer) have increased since June.
Te Iku Polite Form and Negative Form
We can also use te iku in the negative form te ikanai, te ikanakatta, and polite form (both affirmative and negative) te ikimasu, te ikimasen, te ikimashita, te ikimasen deshita.
(Natsu ni naru to ichinichi ga nagaku natte ikimasu.)
When summer comes, the days will get longer and longer.
(Nani mo shinai to, mondai ga kaiketsu shite ikanai desho.)
If you don’t take action, the problem is not going to solve itself.
1. てくる (Te Kuru): Motion
Te kuru means:
- to go and do [verb] and then come back to the speaker’s current location.
- doing an action moving towards the speaker’s current location.
One of the most common examples used in everyday conversation is 行ってきます！(itte kimasu!). When you leave the house to go somewhere and you say goodbye to your family, ittekimasu means “I’ll go and come back.” You are going out to do [verb] but you’re then coming back [home].
(Hirugohan o katte kimasu.)
I’m going to buy lunch (and then come back here).
(Kanojo wa raishū Nagoya kara kaette kuru.)
She is coming back (here) from Nagoya next week.
(Obentō o motte kite kudasai.)
Please bring a lunch box.
2. てくる (Te Kuru): Time
Te kuru can also be used when talking about an ongoing process or change of conditions. It indicates a process that started in the past and is still going on (during the speaker’s conversation) and might continue in the future.
(Sono shōhin wa ima kara ninki ga agatte kuru to omou.)
I think that the popularity of that product will keep rising from now on.
(Atarashii shōhin no aidea ga, dondon afurete kuru.)
My mind is overflowing with ideas for the new product.
3. てきた (Te Kita)
By using the past tense of the verb kuru, te kita indicates:
- An action and a motion towards the speaker’s current location, in the past;
(Kare wa suteki na purezento o motte kita.)
He came by bringing a lovely present.
- A process that has started in the past and has been steadily ongoing until the present. We don’t know how the situation will develop in the future. Therefore we use te kita to describe how it has been until now.
(Saikin, keiki ga yoku natte kita.)
The economic situation has been getting better (until now, but we don’t know how it will develop in the future).
- Te kita is also used to express a sudden change in a situation that was steady or continuous.
(Ame ga futte kita.)
It started raining.
(Samuku natte kita ne.)
It’s getting cold.
Te Kuru Polite Form and Negative Form
Just as for te iku, te kuru can be used in the negative form te konai, te konakatta and in the polite form (both affirmative and negative) te kimasu, te kimasen, te kimashita, te kimasen deshita.
(Hikki shiken datta noni, pen o ippon mo motte kimasen deshita.)
Even though it was a written exam, I came without even bringing a single pen.
(Sono topikku ni tsuite wa, ima made amari kenkyū sarete konakatta.)
Not much research has been done on that topic until now.
Te Iku and Te Kuru vs Plain Form Verbs
Te iku and te kuru are not strictly necessary to build a sentence. Still, they are useful and will make your Japanese sound natural. Try to use them in your conversations when you describe a movement, the continuity of a process, or a transformation.
(Onigiri o kai ni iku ne.)
I’m going to buy a rice ball.
(Onigiri o katte kuru ne.)
I’ll go buy a rice ball (and come back)
(Saikin, atsuku natta ne.)
It got hot recently, huh?
(Saikin, atsuku natte kita ne!)
It’s getting hot lately!
All four sentences are grammatically correct and can all be used in everyday conversation, but the second example of each set sounds more natural. If your goal is to speak natural Japanese, you should consider mastering te iku and te kuru!