I don't know if my question will be well received but I searched a pretty long time and didn't found a good answer so I try.

I was trying to read this NHK article and I found this form:


A this point,I searched why the てきている form is used and not simply てくる because according to what I knew about てくる (an action that starts in the past and continue in the future through now as explained in this post ),adding -ている was useless since てくる contains by itself the notion of time that lasts a certain time with the characteristics explained in the previous post)

So I tried to search but I only found posts that handle a small part of the comparison(I didn't find all forms) and they are sometimes contradictory and raise other questions (because sometimes like here I find that てくる starts in the present, but in the post that I gave before, the fact that it started in the past is the only difference with ていく so if it's not the case, it would mean that they are identical ?)

My question is: What are the differences between the various forms of ていくand てくる?









  • Here's a question that deals with the idea of ている to represent a continuing state. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/43190/the-use-of-ている
    – Leebo
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 7:37
  • I don't understand how it could be applied to てくる since it has itself a notion of time.
    – Jirei
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 7:45
  • To be clear, きている doesn't mean "is coming" like it sounds like you are thinking. It means "has come and persists in being here". Or were you already on that page with ている?
    – Leebo
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 7:49
  • This meaning is already expressed by てくる without the need of ている according to the first post and the second says it's not the case and it begins only in the present.
    – Jirei
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:18
  • Well, someone else can tackle trying to answer what you're asking, since I don't see what the disconnect is. くる and きている are quite distinct and don't deal with time in the same way. Just wanted to point to the nuance of the other meaning of ている if that was the problem.
    – Leebo
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


How you understand them includes a couple of misconceptions, so please forget about it for a while.

ていく and てくる have three usages (each of which is more frequent in this order).

  1. to do something and go somewhere/ come back
  2. to do something to an outward / inward direction
  3. something changes, repeats or accumulates gradually or step by step

As you see there's no "/" in the third usage, both ていく and てくる refer to the exact same objective situation then. For example, 空が明るくなっていく and てくる mean "the sky will get brighter and brighter". However, you can also say them when the phenomenon is happening, where most English speakers will say "the sky is getting brighter", which focuses on a slightly different point, though.

The difference is if the speaker is interested in the result. When you say 貧しくなっていった, it doesn't really tell how it went after, besides the person got poorer and poorer. When you say 貧しくなってきた, however, it reflects the speaker's sense of vulnerability and usually means the influence of the result remains as it is.

Their past form means either that the gradual change started or that the action repeated in a certain period. 明るくなる or 貧しくなる are an example of the gradual change. (edit)

As you may know, た form doesn't only stand for past tense but also perfect aspect. So, 空が明るくなってきた can mean something like "the sky has just started to get brighter", which can be said in the same situation as "the sky is getting brighter". That's why you may find it translated that way.

Thinking of "the sky is getting brighter", the focus of this sentence lies, I believe, in the course of gradual change, which can be expressed with 明るくなってきている after all. Difference between 明るくなっていってる? Maybe "our sky" and "their sky" then.

Edit: ている stands for either a progressive action or a remaining result.

When てきている means the former, the difference between てきた is relatively simple and it focuses on how it's in the middle of continuous change, while てきた focuses on how the change started just before (edit).

On the other hand, when it means the latter, the difference is subtle in examples of gradual change (edit). If you take examples of repetitive actions, as is often the case with this usage, it's like the below.

  • それまでやってきた: one had repeated something until then
  • 今までにやってきている: one had repeated something before and the result reflects in the current time (one has done it by now)
  • 今までやってきた: one has repeated something until the current time

てきていた is past tense of the above.

  • 暖かくなってきていたころ: when it was getting warm
  • 出会ったときにはすでに多くの成果を上げてきていた: He had already earned tons of successes when we first met.
  • In your opinion, how are 明るくなってきている and 明るくなってきた different (I think this is what the OP is most concerned with)?
    – G-Cam
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 18:47
  • 明るくなってきてる is "it is now getting brighter". 明るくなってきた is "it started to get brighter then" or "it has just started to get brighter now". It's a different problem what English speakers say in corresponding situations, though.
    – user4092
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 20:37

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