In A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar in the ~nasai section it has this example sentence: "早くうちに帰って来なさいよ。" with translation "Come home early, OK?".

I'm aware of the general difference between 帰る and 来る but why both? How would the meaning of the sentence change if there was only one or the other? Why not "帰なさい"? (which I assume is ungrammatical because I had to fight autocomplete to type it)

  • Not that 「帰なさい」 makes any sense, I am interested in knowing how you are reading it. Jan 29 '17 at 3:34
  • I would translate "早くうちに帰って" as "returning home early" and "来なさいよ" as "(polite)Do come!" So putting it together I get "Do come to return home early!"
    – John K
    Jan 29 '17 at 3:40
  • 1
    It's just the difference between 'come home/帰ってくる' and 'go home/帰っていく'. Auto-complete is fighting you because it's spelt 帰なさい Jan 29 '17 at 8:24
  • @JohnK, politeness has nothing to do with it. Both have the same impact to the person it is being said to.
    – KyloRen
    Jan 29 '17 at 10:07

帰ってくる is a compound verb made of 帰る and 来る. Sometimes the second verb of a compound verb becomes a subsidiary verb and changes its meaning slightly, but it does not in this case.

I think you were confused because these two verbs are both related to "move". I would like to add one more 行く here.

Although 来る and 行く are usually translated to come and go, they are slightly different.

  • 来る means "The subject moves toward the speaker's place."
  • 行く means "The subject moves away from the speaker's place."

On the other hand, in English, the listener's place matters.


  • 帰る means "The subject moves to the place it belongs to."

(Note: "it belongs to" is relative. For example: 出先から会社に帰る。 (from the field to the office), 会社から家に帰る。 (from the office to home))


  • 早く帰りなさい (Move to where you belong to.)
  • 早く来なさい (Move to where I am.)
  • 早く行きなさい (Move away from where I am.)
  • 早く帰って来なさい (Move to where you belong to and to where I am.)
  • 早く帰って行きなさい (Move to where you belong to and away from where I am.)

早くうちに帰って来なさいよ。and 早くうちに帰りなさいよ。 are almost the same as far as the speaker is at listener's home. Otherwise, the former does not make sense.


Well, both "早く帰りなさい" and "早く帰ってきなさい", pretty much mean the same.

Explaining the difference in theory I would say that saying "帰ってきなさい" would be used for example, when a mother is at home and telling her child to come home, as opposed to if she was out shopping or something and sending the child home from the shops by his/herself, saying "早く帰りなさい", specifically sending the child home when she was not at home.

But, again, in reality, in practice if I was at home, I could not tell you when I would use either phrase and in what situation, as it would most likely be up to how I was feeling at that time. That is how close they are in meaning. Away from home, I would not use "帰ってきなさい".

  • the question is not about usage. It's why are two verbs being used.
    – John K
    Jan 29 '17 at 13:28

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