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Good evenings folks,

Currently I'm here in Tokyo learning Japanese for about 2 months now from scratch, and our sensei is teaching us N4 level grammar structures already. My question is, what's the difference between ~te oku vs regular masu form? For example:

旅行の前にきっぷをかいます。

vs

旅行の前にきっぷをかっておきます。

For me, both of them have a meaning similar to Before going on a trip, I'm going to buy a ticket, so I'm having a hard time knowing what the difference is.

P.S. sorry for putting wrong tag, I don't know which category my question belongs to.

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You aren't wrong that they could both be translated "Before going on a trip, I'm going to buy a ticket". But, there's a slight difference in context/nuance provided.

旅行の前にきっぷをかいます。really focuses on the action of buying a ticket. You will simply buy a ticket before you go on the trip. You aren't implying any sort of preparation.

旅行の前にきっぷをかっておきます。adds the nuance that you are doing something ahead of time, or for convenience. You are therefore perhaps not emphasising the action itself, but that you are doing it in advance.

In this example sentence, it is perhaps a bit of an odd sentence without the ておく, because of the 旅行の前に, which I think limits the contexts in you would say this: usually I think you would only stress that you buy a ticket before a trip in order to show that you are/intend to be prepared, as you generally can't buy tickets to travel after you have started your trip. I think if you look at other examples it might help your understanding.

鍵をここに置きました。I put a key here. (just talking about the action, maybe no particular reason behind the action whatsoever)

鍵をここに置いておきました。I put a key here. (on purpose, so that I/someone else can use it later)

ビールを買いました。I bought some beer. (focusing on the action, perhaps talking about a series of events of what I did that day, or when asked what I bought at the supermarket)

ビールを買っておきました。I bought some beer. (focusing on the preparation I did, maybe for a party I'm having!)

So, when thinking about if you should use Vておく, think about the intent behind the action. If it is done for some sort of advance preparation, for the speaker or someone else, then consider using Vておく. If you just want to focus on the action itself, then you can just use Vます.

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    Hey thanks for clearing that up for me. So both my sentences were correct, it's just that katte okimasu focuses more about prepping up for the action, rather than the action itself, yes? One last question regarding your ビール example. What's the difference between ビールを買っておきました and ビールを買ってあります? Because since I just learned this lesson like a couple of hours ago, I thought that ~te arimasu was used for past actions and ~te okimasu for future ones. It's the first time I've seen ~te okimashita before – Jp Arcilla Jun 16 at 11:39
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    No worries! Both sentences are grammatically correct, but which is favourable depends on context. Picking up on exactly what you said, 買っておきます is focusing on the preparation not for the action itself but for what that action enables (in your example, buying the ticket is preparation for the trip; in the beer case, it is preparation for the party). The action is the preparation. 買ってある focuses on the state resultant of an action. e.g. the fact that the ticket has already been bought. e.g. 切符はちゃんと買ってある "For sure I've (already) got my ticket" or 鍵がここに置いてある。(Someone) left a key here. – henreetee Jun 16 at 12:05
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    Thank you for enlightening me with such detailed answers. Godbless! – Jp Arcilla Jun 16 at 12:28

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