Wild Nihongo!


てくる Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Irregular Auxiliary Verb

Essential Meaning: Start to X / Begin to X / Continue to X (indicates the beginning or continuation of some process)


  • Verb て-Form + くる
    • E.g. ふとってくる [Begin to gain weight / Continue to gain weight]
    • E.g. なってくる [Begin to become X / Continue to become X]


  • てくる expresses the beginning of some state / process or the continuation of some state / process up to the current point. It roughly translates to “Begin to X“, “Start to X“, or “Continue to X“.
  • When てくる expresses the beginning of a state or process, the main verb must be durative and convey some process that takes time to complete or come to fruition (e.g. なる [To become], かる [To understand]、ふとる [To gain weight], やせる [To lose weight]). A process is durative by definition, and it generally involves some form of personal change or growth. For example, getting fat takes time and involves bodily change.
    • E.g. わたしはこのごろふとってきました。[Lately I’ve started to gain weight.]
    • E.g. あのはこのごろずいぶんきれいになってきたね。[Lately that girl has started to become very pretty.]
  • When てくる expresses the continuation of a state or process up to the current point in time, any durative verb is acceptable. It is often used to express an action that one has been doing habitually up to the present.
    • E.g. いままでたくさんほんんできましたが、これからもんでいくつもりです。[I’ve read many books up to this point, and from this point on I plan to continue doing so.]
    • E.g. いままであそんできましたが、これからは一生懸命いっしょけんめい勉強べんきょうするつもりです。[I’ve been playing around up to this point, but from now on I plan to work as hard as I can.]
  • てくる implies that the speaker is emotionally or personally involved in the action or process. To describe the inception or continuation of a process from a more neutral and emotionally uninvested perspective, you can use ~はじめる.
  • Be careful not to confuse the auxiliary verb てくる with the regular て-Form + くる. The difference in meaning can be understood contextually.
    • E.g. わたし会社かいしゃにバスにってきます。[I took the bus and went to work.] Riding the bus and going to work are clearly two distinct events that are connected by the て-Form. As stated above, the initiation of a process is only interpreted as てくる if the verb implies some sort of change or process.
    • E.g. 四時よじまでにはかえってきてください。[Please come home before 4 o’clock.] This is an example of て-Form + くる for the some reasons as above.

Example Sentences:

わたしはコンピューターがすこしわかってきた。[I’ve begun to slightly understand computers.]

わたしはいろいろ日本にほん歴史書れきししょんできた。[I’ve been reading various Japanese history texts.]

テニスをしていたらきゅうあめってきた。[We were playing tennis when it suddenly began to rain.]

午後ごごからあたまいたくなってきました。[From the afternoon, my head began to hurt.]

WILD Examples:

The first line of this song is いなせだな、なつれてきたひと [Dashing, aren’t they? The people who have been begun bringing summer along with them.] This sentence doesn’t translate into English very well, but the basic idea is that people have begun arriving at the beach and bringing with them a summery vibe.
Listen to this lyric at 0:41: こころからだしてきたんだよ [My heart begins to overtake my body]
Listen to this line from 1:00: そしたら、ちからがもりもりいてきた [After that, our energy begins to well up vigorously]
Listen for this line at 1:56: いつものむくまま、一人ひとりきてきた [Always living on a whim, continuing my life all alone]

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