Here is a sentence from the children's story ももたろう, describing when the child appears from within the giant peach.


My dictionary lists 出て来る as meaning "to come out" with a note that it is a "special class, kuru verb." It also separately lists 出る as capable of meaning "to come forth."

What does using 出て来る accomplish over just using 出る?

I originally read 出て来る as two separate words: the て form of 出る + 来る, translating it as "exited and came." Is that essentially the etymology of 出て来る? Is 出て来る merely an idiom that my dictionary happens to list as a separate word?

  • I feel てくる is often obligatory when you describe a situation that “(you find) something appears/exists” but the verb does not have the meaning of “appear” or the action takes place somewhere else before you notice it. It is used when the action is targeted to you. In either case, I think it functions like a kind of voice marker. 話しかけてきた, 電話がかかってきた, etc. きた = to me. (雨が)降ってきた, 出てきた, やってきた, etc. きた = appear, take place, happen, etc. – Yang Muye May 19 '14 at 16:21
  • Past question on the construction: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/676/… – Tim May 19 '14 at 23:33

The difference between 出る and 出てくる is that the later is specifically oriented towards the speaker (and if included, which is not always the case, also the hearer).
Compare the next two examples:

a. 家から出てきた。
[Someone] came out of the house.
b. 家を出ていった。
[Someone] left the house. OR [Someone] left for good.

In (a), we are located outside of the house, and the person inside the house comes out. As a result he is outside with us. Since where we are is "here", the person in the house moves to "here", i.e. comes. That is the meaning of the verb くる. In (b), we are inside the house (=here), and the person leaves, i.e. moves from "here" to some other place that is not "here". And that's the meaning of the verb いく.
But if you just use 出る then the locative specification (the information from where the person comes, and where the person moves to) is simply missing.
However, there is also a temporal use of ~てきた・いった. That is not surprising because linguists know that many languages treat temporal expressions like locative expressions. Most of the examples in @Yang Muye's comment under the question have a temporal meaning.

c. 雨が降ってきた。
It had come to rain.
d. 物価は上がっていくだろう。
Prices will go up from now on.


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