Are there any ways to know whether Verbてくる is about time or space ?

My friend told me that

  • when the verb involves changing from a state to another state, ~てくる is usually about time,

  • when there's place available in the context, てくる is usually about space.

Are there any other ways to know?

  • 2
    Apart from context you mean? For the convenience of your readers can you maybe give an example where the two are ambiguous?
    – Earthliŋ
    Nov 11, 2016 at 17:47
  • ok, I've updated it in my question. Please recheck it.
    – Narutokage
    Nov 12, 2016 at 3:18
  • 1
    Hm. I think it's not just an indication of the change in state but its progression too. And I think that time/space sometimes cannot be meaningfully distinguished. How would one meaningfully measure time if not anchored in a reality capable of cataloguing changes of states in space? We calibrate seconds to pendulum swings or crystal vibrations or other physical spatial properties.
    – Flaw
    Nov 12, 2016 at 8:01

2 Answers 2


I've never personally thought about it in terms of whether it's a change in time or space. I don't know that you need to specifically do that, since it behaves the same grammatically in either situation.
くる after a verb in TE-form simply shows that something will become an action or state, or an action or state will continue. There are times when it may become abstract in English, but it behaves the same in any Japanese sentence it is used.

My head has started hurting.
(My head came to a state of hurting, and is still in that state)

I have raised my child on my own.
(I have been doing the action of raising my child up to this point)

The typhoon will be getting close.
(The typhoon will get close, and continue to be close)

These all happen to deal with space or time, but more importantly modify the state of the verb they are attached to. So I think by simply looking at that verb, you should be able to see what it is that's changing.


I think you have to rely on the context. For example, consider


These could be both about space or time.

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