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  1. 次の日そのスカートを学校にはいていったら、友達によく似合うと言われた。(〇)
  2. 次の日そのスカートをはいて学校にいったら、友達によく似合うと言われた。(〇)
  3. 何枚ものお札を窓口につかんでいく(✕)
  4. 何枚ものお札をつかんで窓口にいく(〇)

I saw the first sentence in a book (留学生のためのここが大切文章表現のルール) and asked a Japanese friend if the above four sentences are natural, told that only the third one is unnatural. Could you help me figure out why the first one is natural while the third one is unnatural?

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The meanings or implications are slightly different between all four sentences. I'll translate the sentences in a different order but I think that's gonna make things more clear.

  1. The next day, when she put on that skirt and then went to school, a friend told her it suited her.

In this sentence, the「①て②」simply indicates a chronology of actions. She first put on that skirt and then proceeded to go to school. At school, a friend then complimented her.

  1. When she wore that skirt to school the next day, a friend told her it suited her.

In this sentence,「学校に はいていく」emphasizes the concurrence between both the action of wearing a skirt, as well as the result of the speaker's relocation: going to school.

  1. He grabbed some bills and then went to the counter.

The fourth example, similarly to the first example, also indicates a chronology. But why is it unnatural to try to express the concurrence between grabbing the bills and going to the counter? Here, the action of grabbing is instantaneous. You either have or haven't grabbed something, so once you have grabbed something, the action is effectively done.

Compare this to wearing a skirt in the previous examples; sure, you can only put on or take off a piece of clothing once, but the act of wearing something is sustained. As long as you don't undress, you will be wearing it indefinitely. The instantaneous actions would be putting on and taking off the skirt.

To tie this back to the second example, think of grabbing and letting go of the bank notes as instantaneous actions, and keeping hold of the bank notes as a sustained action. The verb for hold is「持{も}つ」so the following sentence will sound more natural.

何枚ものお札を窓口に持っていく

Go to the counter while holding onto some bank notes

This translation is of course a bit unnatural, and would better be translated as take money to the counter or something like that.

All in all, it's a pretty common pattern definitely worth looking into. Note that you can also say「Vてくる」instead of「Vていく」if someone is coming towards the speaker while doing a sustained action or being in a sustained state.


Sources: Vていきます/Vてきます(Japanese), 「~てくる、~ていく」表現 (Japanese)

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  • The idea sounds fascinating, but how do you explain お土産を職場に買って行く? – broccoli facemask Jul 6 '20 at 4:05
  • I'm not sure actually, I'm guessing that means something along the lines of "I am going to buy a souvenir for the people at my workplace." or "I am going to my workplace to buy a souvenir." In both cases, I believe they follow the chronology argument from section 5 subsection ③ from this page about Vていきます/Vてきます. – JansthcirlU Jul 6 '20 at 7:50

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