I'm a little unclear on the use a verb stem, followed by に and another verb.

Take these two examples:



I think the first means "I went with a special visa", but it might be simply grammatically incorrect.

The second, I think means "I went to get a special visa". I'm pretty sure it's grammatically correct as I got it from a native speaker.

I have a lot of bad habits when speaking Japanese, and I think one of them is that I often mess up and use the first form when I should use the second.

So I just want to be clear. Is the first example simply incorrect grammar (and therefor meaningless), or does it mean what I think?

Also, do I have the translation on the second example correct?

This might be related to the difference between に and で as in this question.

3 Answers 3


As Ignacio has said, the い-form (or the [連用形]{ren'yōkei} form) is used with に to indicate a purpose.
特別なビザをもらいに行った means you're going somewhere, and your purpose for going there is getting a special visa.

特別なビザをもらって行った, however, is quite incorrect. Indeed, ~て-form + いく can be used to make a compound verb that means "beginning from a certain point, to be in the process of gradually doing something". For instance "大きくなっていく" approximately means "to grow larger and larger". There's also "大きくなってくる" which would translate into the same thing in English, but has a different point-of-reference. With ~ていく, the process (of growing larger, for instance) starts at a certain point (pointed by the verb's tense) and goes on from there. With ~てくる, on the other hand, the process starting point is unmentioned, and it is viewed as progressing towards a certain point which is partially indicated by the verb's tense. For example, if X is the point of time we refer to:

人数が増えていった。 X ----> number of people grows ---->
人数が増えてきた。 ----> number of people grows ----> X

Note that X isn't necessarily the starting point or the ending point with either of these constructs. It just serves as the point of reference from which we look at it - in other words, ~ていく means we're looking forward and ~てくる means we're looking backward.

However, the sentence 特別なビザをもらって行った doesn't fit into this pattern, for two reasons. First, it's rather hard to imagine "getting a special visa" as a gradual process. Second, you only rarely find いく and くる in this sense (of auxiliary verbs that are used to indicate a gradual process) written in kanji. The standard is to write them in hiragana in such case. So 特別なビザをもらって行った does look plain wrong to my eyes.

  • Your answer is almost certainly right, but I haven't marked it yet because I'm a little fuzzy on what you're saying about "gradual process" in the last paragraph. Jokes about how nothing at the immigration office is anything but gradual aside, what is it about the Vい+に pattern that makes it have to be gradual? My understanding of the sentence was that the subject went to receive a visa, but nothing about the length of the action of receiving.
    – Questioner
    Jun 20, 2011 at 5:17
  • @Dave: There's nothing gradual about the V(i)-にいく pattern. It's the ~ていく pattern that is. And gradual here is just gradual. Think of "more and more" or "ADJ-er and ADJ-er" in English. It's about the same. I can't imagine you saying "I'm receiving my Visa more and more" even if the pace at the immigration office is glacial. :D
    – Boaz Yaniv
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:41
  • Ah! I get it now. I was confused about which example you were referring to when you were saying gradual. It's the ている pattern that implies gradual, which is what makes the original example ている sentence wonky. Thanks for the explanation!
    – Questioner
    Jun 21, 2011 at 3:54
  • 3
    「特別なビザをもらって行った。」と「特別なビザをもらいに行った。」は、どちらもおかしくありません。「特別なビザをもらって行った。」は "(I/Someone) received/got a special visa and went/left." / "(I/Someone) went with a special visa." で、「特別なビザをもらいに行った。」は "(I/Someone) went to get/receive a special visa." という意味でよいと思います。
    – chocolate
    Dec 12, 2015 at 17:05
  • 1
    特別なビザをもらって行った, however, is quite incorrect. No, it isn't. It just means something different. It might help see that if you add a comma between もらって and 行った. Dec 13, 2015 at 2:25

The 連用形 of a verb is used with 「に」 to express a purpose. As such, the second means "I went to receive a special visa".

The 「~て」 form of a verb can be used to "bind" multiple verbs into a single action. When the following verb is 「行く」, the entire action takes the form of the preceding verb continuously happening. As such, the first means "I continuously received a special visa".


To get what I think you're asking for in your first example sentence, I'd have thought it to be more like the following:


I went holding a special visa.

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