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Most textbooks explain that 行く and 来る can be generally translated to English as to go and to come, except when the perspectives/locations of the speaker and the person performing the movement are different. To include those situations, a better rule would be:

  • use 行く when the movement is away from the speaker (or from A to B when the speaker is at an altogether different place C, as in "At what time are you going to the movies tonight?"),
  • use 来る for movements toward the speaker (or in the same direction as the speaker, as in "Come with me!").

This is all clear, but I can come up with several other situations that either are not covered by this framework, or perhaps even violate it.

  1. First off, if you simply look up 来る in Jisho, the first example sentence is:

    10時までに来ます。(I'll come by 10.)

    This seemingly violates the above rule, as the movement is in the direction away from the speaker. The way I explain it to myself is that here we have a strong accent on arriving at the destination, since we're specifying the time. 行く simply wouldn't work, as "I'll go by 10" has a different meaning. Is this correct or am I missing something?

  2. Apart from that, the above rules don't cover situations where there is no speaker whatsoever and we have a narration instead, like in books. Consider, for example:

    Harry Potter is going to Hogwarts next week. / Harry Potter is coming to Hogwarts next week.

    In English, these sound fairly similar. What would these sentences look like in Japanese? I feel like both should be acceptable:

    ハリーポッターは来週ホグワーツに行きます。 / ハリーポッターは来週ホグワーツに来ます。

    Is there an implied difference in meaning between these two sentences? I can't really tell since I'm a beginner and haven't got enough practice.

Thanks a lot!

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    10時までに来ます doesn't violate your rules as it's understood as being said by someone who is at the same place as where they are coming (again).
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 22:29
  • @aguijonazo, do you mean it’s understood as “I’ll be back by 10”? Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 23:11
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    Yes. It doesn't have to be the same day, though.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 1:40
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    10時までに行きます is just fine.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 13:03
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    Related How do 行く and 来る *really* work?
    – sundowner
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 23:26

1 Answer 1

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  1. Let's say you and a colleague are discussing in the office about what time you need to come in next Monday. In that case, 10時までに来ます ("I'll come by 10") is a perfectly correct sentence. The future you is coming toward where the current you is (the office).

  2. ホグワーツに行きます and ホグワーツに来ます are both valid, but they're not the same. In the narrative part of a novel, there is still an imaginary "narrator", and the sentence is described based on its standpoint. Or imagine there is a virtual "camera" that captures the scene. If that camera is inside Hogwarts, then 来る would be correct, and if that camera is in a village far away from Hogwarts, then 行く would be correct. If it's depicted from a god-like perspective, like in a strategy game, it's usually safer to use 行く.

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  • That's brilliant, thanks a lot! You put that very succinctly. I'm happy to accept your answer! Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 8:31

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