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. 太ってくる [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], 分かる [To understand]、太る [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. 私はこのごろ太ってきました。[Lately I’ve started to gain weight.]
- E.g. あの子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. 今までたくさん本を読んできましたが、これからも読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. 今まで遊んできましたが、これからは一生懸命勉強するつもりです。[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. 私は会社にバスに乗ってきます。[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. 四時までには帰ってきてください。[Please come home before 4 o’clock.] This is an example of て-Form + くる for the some reasons as above.
私はコンピューターが少しわかってきた。[I’ve begun to slightly understand computers.]
私はいろいろ日本の歴史書を読んできた。[I’ve been reading various Japanese history texts.]
テニスをしていたら急に雨が降ってきた。[We were playing tennis when it suddenly began to rain.]
午後から頭が痛くなってきました。[From the afternoon, my head began to hurt.]
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