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I am very confused about the meaning of the expressions 'ていく' and 'てくる' and seems that every website I look has a different explanation.

Translations that I think are good:
'Go in order to buy wine';
'Going to buy wine';
'Buy a bottle of wine and then go'.

Which one is right and why?

2 Answers 2

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ワインを買っていく

literally means "I'll buy wine and go". You'd say this to mean "I'll buy wine on my way to the place where you are (≂ I'll buy wine and bring it to the place where you are)", "I'll buy wine on my way to somewhere (away from the hearer) (≂ I'll buy wine and bring it to somewhere (away from the hearer))", or "I'll buy wine here(, and leave this place)."

Compare:

ワインを買いに行く "I'll go (somewhere) to buy wine."

ワインを買ってくる "I'll buy wine (somewhere) and come back (here; to the place where the speaker is now)."

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  • I think that ワインを買ってくる can be used even if you do not buy the wine "here", but rather you go to buy wine somewhere else and then come back. Is this right?
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 11:23
  • I thought it was obvious 買ってくる means you buy the wine somewhere else not here..
    – chocolate
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 14:44
  • So did I, but it was not clear from your answer that the "here" is referring only to the place where you come back, and it does not include the place where you buy something. Thanks for editing.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 21:51
  • Like, 買ってくる in reality means 行って買ってくる but no one actually says the 行って bit.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 21:53
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    @Karl, If you were having the conversation over the phone from the shop, you'd say 買っていく, not 買ってくる.
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 7:40
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The ていく and てくる forms can express many different things. If you can imagine a timeline from past -> present -> future, てくる (てきた can be considered present perfect tense) will usually describe actions that have occurred prior to the present moment, whereas ていく will describe actions that will occur moving forward.

Also, whether you use ていく or てくる will depend on whether the thing/person that is moving is approaching or leaving the speaker.

Another concept that is expressed by てくる・ていく, is to, according to my grammar dictionary, "Do something and then move on." Without knowing the larger context around the sentence you provided, it's hard to say for sure, but ワインを買っていく could imply that the speaker is going to buy wine, and then go somewhere else or do something else. Whereas if they said ワインを買ってくる, it would mean that they were going out to buy wine and then return.

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