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My friend recently said to me:

眠くなってきた 【ねむくなってきた】

Which, I think means "I became sleepy".

But it seems to me that it is the same as saying:


How does the addition of きた change this phrase?

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I'm not really qualified to answer as I'm sort of going on "feeling", but to me, 眠くなった sounds very sudden. "I got sleepy" (suddenly). A very quick change. However, 眠くなってきた sounds much more like, "I've gotten sleepy" (over a period of time up until now). A much more gradual change. However, I could be incorrect... – phirru Aug 13 '11 at 4:28
Also, I think you're missing a っ in なった。 – phirru Aug 13 '11 at 4:31
@phirru: Thanks for catching that. Corrected. – Questioner Aug 13 '11 at 4:47
up vote 8 down vote accepted

phirru's comment is almost correct: Addition of くる in this case means that it happened gradually. It also means that it might not yet be complete. However, the one without くる does not necessarily mean suddenly. It just does not mention the process. It may or may not have happened suddenly. いく can be used with similar meaning, but the perspective will be different.

'I am becoming sleepy.'
'I have (gradually) become sleepy.'

'I became sleepy.'

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Thank you for clarifying this! Very easy to understand, +1. – phirru Aug 13 '11 at 7:24

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