We have a question on this site, What is the proper differentiation between 来る and 行く?, which does seem to correctly explain the basic general differentiation between 行く and 来る, which is that it is chosen based on the speaker's perspective (regardless of sentence subject, etc.).

However, this is what still confuses me: Physical location of speaker at speech time is not what determines the verb.

If you are at school and you invite your friend over to your house, you say 「うち来る?」, not 「うち行く?」, right? If you live in Japan but you're visiting America and invite your American friend to Japan, you say 「日本来る?」 right? (Although, if you're just asking if they will go to Japan at all, not to visit you or something like that, it's 「日本行くの?」, yeah?)

I can imagine two ways to account for this: 1. it's the speaker's location at the time of movement that's relevant, not their current location, or 2. it's the speaker's "ownership" of the location that's relevant (which I think accounts for the 日本来る・日本行く difference in nuance pretty well).

I think it's two, but physically being somewhere gives you a sense of ownership over the location?

「パーティー来る?」 is okay to say even if it's not your party, but you just happen to already be there, right? 「彼は一週間前ここに来たみたい。」 is fine, even if where you are is totally not yours, yeah?

How about being physically somewhere at movement time? 「俺は1時から5時まで太郎の家にいるから、その間に来るよね?」 seems like it could be okay, but I think 行く is at least also is fine here...

But if course, it's not just physical location at speech time, or physical location at movement time, because 「私がいない間うちに来たのよ…」 works even if you're not at home.

Yet, if you use 一緒に, then you must use 行く 「一緒にうちまで行く?」 I think, even if it's yours...

Is there some simple explanation which accounts for all this (assuming my judgments are correct, and I'm not too sure about them to say the least)?

  • 2
    Deictic verbs of motion are surprisingly hard to describe (and differ in surprising ways between languages!), and they're a popular topic for linguistics papers: gsid.nagoya-u.ac.jp/oshima/docs/gcr.pdf - books.google.com/books?id=Suwm4WrQB6IC&pg=PA97
    – user1478
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:43
  • Oh dear, 「明日、太郎があなたのところに来ます」 from that paper... things are even more complicated than I started speculating in this question... haha :-). Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:46
  • If #1 were (always) true, you'd never be able to use 来る with a first person pronoun because the speaker can't come to his own location.
    – Blavius
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:48
  • 2
    I just find that all the examples OP listed match their English usage.
    – Derpius
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


Not only the choice between 行{い}く and 来{く}る, but all the events need to be described based on the speaker's perspective. So, the physical presence of the speaker doesn't matter. Although, the choice of the verbs 行{い}く and 来{く}る represents the place the speaker focuses on.


the point of starting [A] --------> somewhere [B]


somewhere [A] --------> the point of arrival [B]

Both 行{い}く & 来{く}る indicates the movement from A to B. 行{い}く is used when the speaker concentrates on where the action starts. On the other hand, 来{く}る is used when the speaker concentrates on the point of arrival.

A: I'm going to the library.

B: Can I come, too?

A: 図書館{としょかん}に行{い}きます

B: 私{わたし}も行{い}っていいですか。

行{い}く indicates that someone or something leaves from the point where the person or the thing is, whoever the doer of the verb is. But 来{く}る normally indicates that someone or something arrives to the speaker or the place the speaker belongs to. So, 来{く}る cannot be used for the sentence B in the example.

If you are at school and you invite your friend over to your house,

○ うちに来{く}る?

? うちに行{い}く?

The owner of うち is usually the speaker unless it's pointed out as 〜さんのうち or うちに帰{かえ}る (帰{かえ}る is only used when the point of arrival is where the doer belongs). So, in this case, 来{く}る is normally used. Although, 行{い}く could be used if you want to suggest your friend to go to your house together, such as うちに行{い}かない? or うちに行{い}こう. うちに行{い}く? sounds like you won't be home when your friend comes or うち is not yours but someone else's.


This is fine when you are sure to head to your place with your friend.

If you live in Japan but you're visiting America and invite your American friend to Japan

In this case, I would say,


Using 来{く}る is right because you concentrate on the point of arrival 日本{にほん}. But 日本{にほん}に来{く}る? sounds as you ask your friend if s/he would come or not like 'Will you come to Japan?'. 日本{にほん}行{い}くの? sounds unnatural in this case but could be used when you don't live in Japan and want to know if your friend goes there or not.


You can use 来{く}る, even you are not the organizer of the party, as long as you very sure to participate in it. If you're unsure about your participation, 行{い}く should be used.


Yes, this is fine if you are at right in the place he visited. The place doesn't necessarily need to be yours. If you use 行{い}った instead, you are probably talking about where he visited while looking at the map.


Since 来{く}る is used, the speaker is asking if the listener is coming to 太郎{たろう}の家{いえ} where he will be. 行{い}く can be used when the speaker wants to ask if the listener visit somewhere else but 太郎{たろう}の家{いえ}.


くる means one approaches to the point of view while 行く means one goes away from it. It depends on where you put the point of view to choose which to use.

In the scene where you invite your friend to your house, it depends on which you feel psychologically closer to between your friend and your house. If it's the former, you use 行く, otherwise 来る. I think the example of 一緒に行く supports that idea.

In that sense, 「俺は1時から5時まで太郎の家にいるから、その間に行くよね?」is confusing in the point that you are seeing yourself from the opponent viewpoint. However, it's not that such expressions are impossible. You may use it when you want to fix the point of view, for example, when a detective lists what someone did.


My first inclination is to say that it really is not either 1 or 2, but instead:

行く indicates that somebody is moving away from where the speaker is now or will be at the time of departure.
来る indicates that somebody is moving towards where the speaker is now or will be at the time of arrival.

Therefore something like「うち来る?」says basically "Will you go to my house? If so, I'm planning on also being there when you arrive." while 「うち行く?」says "Will you go to my house? If so, you will need to leave here in order to go there."

Note that in the case where the speaker is also moving during that time, there can be some overlap between these two scenarios. In those situations, whichever one is used can depend on which aspect of the journey (leaving or arriving) the speaker wants to focus on more.

But for example, regardless of ownership, I would not expect someone to say「うち来る?」if they were not actually intending to also be there at the same time that the listener was.

(FWIW, I think there is also some element of intent present in all of this as well. For example, 来る can also indicate that somebody is going to some location with the intent of becoming closer to where the speaker is or will be, whether that actually works out to be the case in reality or not.)

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