I have a doubt in regard to the use of てくる, while marking motion of an object.

Among other things, てくる can be used to mark motion of an object, and the fact that you received that motion.

E.g. 田中さんが手紙を送ってきた (Tanaka-san sent me a letter and I received it)

So, my question is, can any verb be used, with this てくる, or only verbs which indicate a sense of motion can be used:

As, in お母さんがシャツを買ってきた (Can mean, my mother bought shirt, and I received it), or お母さんが本を読んできた (My mother read the story, and I received it (i.e. listened it).

Also, can てくれる be used for verbs (which do not have inherent sense of direction) these to use of てきた. Like お母さんが私にシャツを買ってくれてきた、and お母さんが本を読んでくれてきた.

My second question is, does the object need to be tangible in nature, can it be abstract things like an idea, words etc. E.g. 君の考えを聞いてきた

Lastly, I want to just ask you about this example sentence that I read somewhere - "E.g. 田中さんが手紙を送ってきた". Over here is 私に implied?, or does in this usage we only talk about the act that is done by the person e.g. like 友達は長い手紙を書いてきた.

ありがとうございます. Sorry for the big question. でも、教えてください

1 Answer 1


てくる is divided to て(and) 来る(come). So, Basically, てくる means some action and come (to me, here or back here).

If directly translated,

My mother bought a shirt and came here/back here with the shirt. (not sure for who)

Just 買った means "My mother bought a shirt" (not sure where she is now and not sure for who).

くれてきた。 is something wrong.
Instead, we use きてくれた

My mother bought a shirt and came to me and gave it to me. (Directly translated)
My mother bought a shirt for me. (Translated naturally)
買って(buy) + きて(come) + くれた(give)

So, the order of 買って + くれて + きた is wrong.
You cannot give something to someone directly without coming.

Also, 読んで + くれて + きた is wrong because 読んでくれた(read a book for me) and come, is weird, right?

By the way, the correct order, 読んで + きて + くれた is very strange, but can be used in a rare situation.
For example:

 (I have to read a book and write an essay as homework, but) my mother read the book in a library and came back here (and maybe writes the essay for me).

This is a very difficult point in Japanese, but 送ってきた is not 送って(sent and) きた(came here).
This means just "sent it to you".
I guess the reason is as below.
When you write a letter to someone and send it, Japanese thought he/she is in the letter or his/her soul/feeling is in the letter. It means that you/your feeling literally comes to me riding on the letter like a train, bus or airplane.
So, おくってきた can be 送って(you sent it to me and) きた(your soul/feeling comes to me)
Now, we use 送ってきた as "sent it to me/you" although it is not a letter, but it is an email or even a gift box.

However, 送ってきた also can be "send + come here".
For example, You asked someone (her) to send your mail to someone, and then she went to a post office and came back.
She would say "I sent it to him" translated as "送ってきた".
This is "send + come". I think this case is occasional.

So, "送ってきた" can have both nuances. "send it to someone and receive" or "send + come here"
You need to judge from the context...

So, let me answer your three questions.

  1. can any verb be used?
    Basically, you can use with any verb, but some words should be weird.
    For example, 来る(come) means already "come", so if you use てくる with 来る, it is "来てくる", that is come and come. It is weird.

  2. Can use with abstract verb.
    As I mentioned "読んできてくれた", you can use though it depends on situation.
    So, 君の考えを聞いてきた can be used.

  3. Whom did someone send it? in the case that "田中さんが手紙を送ってきた"
    It should be the person who said "田中さんが手紙を送ってきた", that is 私.
    However, in the following situation like question sentence, the object is not 私:

A: 田中さんから手紙を受け取った。
B: 田中さんが送ってきたの!?
A: I received a letter from Tanaka-san.
B: Tanaka-san send it to you!?

Anyway, the object should be obvious in the context.

I am sorry that this answer is so long, but it is difficult and good questions.

Note: See the comments to get more detailed answer

  • 1
    Yes. However, please note "送ってきた" also does not always have "received it" nuance. I am sorry for my lack of explanation. For example, You asked someone (her) to send your mail to someone, and then she went to a post office and came back. She would say "I sent it to him" translated as "送ってきた". This is "send + come". I think this case is occasional, but can be happened.
    – Kay
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 18:20
  • 1
    “手紙を書いてきた” can have two meanings. It depends on situation. The first case is literally “wrote letter + came here”. The second case is “手紙を書いて送ってきた”. “送って” is omitted/skipped. In general, A letter is sent to someone. Of course, you can give it to someone directly, but you can guess it was sent to her. For example, You and she are talking. She is popular with boys and often gets love letters directly or indirectly. Then, she said “彼が手紙を書いてきた”. You would understand that he came and directly give it to her or he sent it to her.
    – Kay
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 18:20
  • 1
    In another case, If she said “レポートを書いてきた”, what do you think? I would definitely understand that she made/wrote a report and came here, but we are not sure this has “I received it” nuance or not. If I was a professor and she was a student, maybe means “I received it”, but if I was a friend of her, maybe means “A professor would receive it”.
    – Kay
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 18:21
  • 1
    Not sure "I received the shirt" because てくる basically has a nuance "and + come". "送ってくる" is an exception case. ”書いてくる” also basically means "write + come". "手紙" is an exception case. Letter is supposed to be sent. "手紙を書く" implies "誰かに送る", "send it to someone." "買ってきた" means just "bought and came here". we are not sure for whom. we would guess it from the context. By the way, if she says "買ってきてくれた", it clealy means "I received it."
    – Kay
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 14:57
  • 1
    All てくる can have a nuance "I received it." because we are not sure for whom from the only sentence. If you want to know "for whom", you need to guess from the context or ask her/him thought we can guess for whom from the context in the most case. Even in English, for example, when your mother/father bought a bread, milk, meet and so on, you would guess those are for your family though she/he did not say "for us". I mean, we, japanese just tends to omit "for whom" although it is not completely clear. お気になさらず納得できるまで質問してくださいね。(Never mind. Feel free to ask me until you are convinced.)
    – Kay
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 15:08

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