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There are loads of words in Japanese which end in 込{こ}む, like 吸{す}い込む, 読{よ}み込む, 入{はい}り込む, 打{う}ち込む, 売{う}り込む, 送{おく}り込む, 押{お}し込む. How does adding ~込む change the meaning? What is the meaning that links all these words?

35

込む by itself can be interpreted as a intransitive verb to mean "jammed in", "packed in", "crowded". For example 電車が込む

However, when 込む is used with compound verbs it can have 3 different interpretations.

  1. ‘to enter; put something in/into’

    Implies a physical transition where an object (or a person) shifts from a place into an enclosed location.

    Examples
    雨が吹き込む - Rain blows in.
    飛び込む - Jump in/Dive.

  2. 'to do/become something thoroughly/fully/deeply/intensively'

    Normally denotes that someone undergoes a certain physical/psychological occurrence that produces physical/mental changes or development.

    Examples
    教え込む - Inculcate a thing (in a person’s mind); instill into (a person); give a good training.
    思い込む - Be convinced; be under the impression; set one’s heart; fall in love.

  3. ‘to continue an action within the same condition’

    Indicates that someone is involved in a physical recurrent action.

    Examples
    黙り込む - Fall silent; keep one’s mouth shut; clam up.

Reference: 高橋 直子, “Syntactic Complexity of Komu-compounds in Japanese”, 名古屋外国語大学外国語学部紀要 (Journal of School of Foreign Languages, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies) 36 (2009), 169–193. (PDF)

8

Usually it means to do something more thoroughly, completely, or intensely.

Sometimes it can also be like adding "into" after the verb: 押す, "to push" becomes 押し込む, "to push into."

  • 1
    which sorta fits in with 込む's general meaning of "crowded" or "full", right? – sartak May 31 '11 at 20:08
  • 1
    Basically, yes. 込む's meaning has expanded from its basic definition of "to be packed" to "to put into (i.e. to make packed)" and from there to "to do intensely (i.e. to put a lot of energy into)" – Amanda S May 31 '11 at 20:22
4

The examples given by the OP are pretty clear-cut, and covered well by Amanda's answer. Where 〜込む can get difficult is in the verbs that don't directly relate to an action.

For example, 思い込む, per Amanda's explanation, would mean to "think thoroughly, completely, intensely, or to be packed in"... not exactly intuitive for the exact meaning of "to wrongly convince oneself of/talk oneself into something".

2

The implication is often,I'd say, that the action is brusque, hasty or intrusive. E.g:

はいる go in vs はいりこむ , burst in

おもう think vs おもいこむ jump to a hasty conclusion

のぞく peek, peer vs のぞきこむ peer intrusively in (through a keyhole or a gap in the curtains)

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