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“Go” in Japanese: Master Movement Verbs in Japanese

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You can’t get very far in a language if you can’t talk about movement! So today, let’s focus on “go” in Japanese, “go” vs “come” (which is a bit tricky!), and other movement verbs.

It may seem simple, but there are actually quite a lot of ways to use the verb “go” in Japanese. There are even different words for “go” depending on the formality and meaning!

So, we’ll talk about the two most important Japanese words for movement — iku and kuru — and how to conjugate them for different meanings.

Plus, you’ll learn a ton of other related phrases like “let’s go” in Japanese, slang for “go”, and other common motion verbs.

“To Go” in Japanese: 行く (iku)

The verb “to go” in Japanese is 行く (iku). That’s its standard dictionary form, and also the casual way to say “go” in present tense.

But there are other ways to use 行く, which we’ll get to in a second. First, I want to point out that sometimes the kanji 行 is used as 行う (okonau), which means “to perform, to do, to carry out, to occur.”

行う has almost the same meaning as する (suru, “to do”), but 行う is used in formal situations like in news articles.

So if you see 行う instead of 行く , don’t get confused!

There’s also the honorific form, いらっしゃる (irassharu), which you probably won’t ever use but would hear if you go into a Japanese store. When you walk into a Japanese store, they’ll greet you with いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase) which means “welcome” in this instance.

How to Conjugate 行く

行く can conjugate in many different ways to mean everything from “want to go” to “let’s go” and commands like “Go!”

First, we need to know basic Japanese verb conjugation.

行く is an う-verb in Japanese. For う-verbs to change into polite present tense, you drop the final “u” and change it to “i” + -masu. So iku becomes ikimasu.

If you know the Japanese alphabet chart already, you can picture going from the “u” row of the column to the “i” row.

This makes it easier to think about with kana because the whole character changes (as opposed to the romanization where you change the vowel and add -masu.)

Because in hiragana, it’s いく → いきます. See how く, ku, became き, ki?

That’s the standard present form. But what if you wanted to say something else?

Here are some other helpful tenses and how to conjugate them:

Casual Form:

  • “Don’t go” or “won’t go”, present negative: 行く → 行かない, ikanai. Change final u (く) to a (か) and add -nai.
  • “Didn’t go”, past negative: 行く → 行かなかった, ikanakatta. Change final u (く) to a (か) and add -nakatta.
  • “Went” or “have gone”, past tense: 行く → 行った, itta. Drop -ku and add -tta.
  • “Going”, present progressive: 行く → 行っている, itte iru. Drop -ku and add -tte iru.
  • “Was going”, past progressive: 行く → 行っていた, itte ita. Drop -ku and add -tte ita.

Polite Form:

  • “Go”, present tense: 行く → 行きます, ikimasu. Change final u(く) to i (き) and add -masu.
  • “Don’t go” or “won’t go”, present negative: 行く → 行きません, ikimasen. Change final u (く) to i (き) and add -masen.
  • “Didn’t go”, past negative: 行く → 行きませんでした, ikimasen deshita. Change final u (く) to i (き) and add -masen deshita.
  • “Went” or “have gone”, past tense: 行く → 行きました, ikimashita. Change final u (く) to i (き) and add -mashita.
  • “Going”, present progressive: 行く → 行っています, itte imasu. Drop -ku and add -tte imasu. (The same as casual for 行く, but the helping verb いる changes to formal います.)
  • “Was going”, past progressive: 行く → 行っていました, itte imashita. Drop -ku and add -tte imashita.

This becomes easier when you learn all the basic grammar rules. Learning te-form in Japanese is a good place to start.

Also, there is no future tense in Japanese. It’s understood by context and using words for days and time.

“Let’s Go” in Japanese

Besides changing “go” to different tenses, you can also change “go” to say things like “let’s go” or “I want to go”.

To say “let’s go” in Japanese, you can say it a few ways:

  • Polite form: 行きましょう, ikimashou
  • Casual form: 行こう, ikou

These mean “Let’s go!” or “Shall we go?” depending on your inflection. But, when asking if someone wants to go with you, it’s actually more polite to ask in negative polite form like:

ikimasen ka?
“Do you want to go?”

It’s kind of like saying “You wouldn’t want to come with, would you?” In Japanese, being less direct is always more polite.

“Let’s go” is also sometimes taken straight from English — think like Mario’s catchphrase. It’s レッツゴー (rettsu go-).

Now, if you wanted to say “I want to go” you change 行く like this:

Change the final u (く) to i (き) and add -tai. 行く → 行きたい, ikitai

Then you can say things like:

Nihon ni ikitai!
“I want to go to Japan!”

Lastly, if you want to ask someone “Where are you going?” in Japanese, you can say:

Polite form:
Doko ni ikimasu ka

Casual form:
Doko ni iku?

For the casual form, raise your intonation at the end to make it a question. In polite form, you use the question particle か to mark it as a question.

“Go Away!” in Japanese

Someone bothering you? Need to tell someone to get lost? There are several ways to tell someone to “go away” in Japanese.

Let’s start with the simplest. You can simply say “Go!” as a command and say 行きなさい! (ikinasai!) It means, “You must go”. The ending -nasai is often used by parents to kids to make statements into a command, but you can also use it to tell someone to go away.

You can also use the imperative casual form of the verb, 行け (ike), on its own.

Or say あっちに行け! (acchi ni ike) which also means “go away”. あっち is informal for あちら (achira) which means “far over there.”

Last up, you’ll also hear 消えろ (kiero) or 失せろ (usero) as harsher, more rude ways to say “get lost” or “scram!” They’re from the verbs 消える (kieru) which means “to disappear” and 失せる (useru), “to lose”.

Keep in mind, these are commanding or rude statements. You wouldn’t want to use them in situations where you’re talking to someone of higher status, like someone older or a boss.

If you need to politely ask someone to leave, you can say 行ってください (itte kudasai).

“Go to…” in Japanese

You can use ~~に行く (ni iku) or ~~へ行く (e iku) to say “go to…” in Japanese.

So if you wanted to say “I’m going to the park”, you’d say:

kouen ni iku

Particles に and へ are used almost interchangeably, so you can use either here.

There are some common examples where you’d say “go to…” that actually use another verb in Japanese.

For example, for “go to bed” in Japanese, you could say:

Beddo ni iku

But that means “go to your bed (to sit? For time out? To make it?)”. The intent isn’t as clear except the speaker is saying either they will or telling you to go toward the bed.

In the case of “go to sleep” in Japanese, where we also use “go to bed” in English, you’d instead use the verb 寝る (neru, “to sleep”).

ima neru. Oyasumi!
“I’m going to bed now. Goodnight!”

nete nasai yo
“Go to sleep.”

Another common one is “go home”. This also has its own movement verb, which is 帰る (kaeru).

So to say, “go home” in Japanese, you’d say:

uchi ni kaette kudasai
“Please go home.”

That’s the polite way. But in casual situations or where you need to use it as a command, you could say 帰れ (kaere, the imperative form).

Or for “let’s go home”, say 帰ろう (kaerou, casual) or 帰りましょう (kaerimashou, polite).

“Go to Hell” in Japanese

Okay, this next one is to be used carefully… As it’s not at all polite or work-appropriate. In English, when we’re angry, we might curse someone by saying “go to hell!”

There is a way to say “go to hell” in Japanese, which is:

jigoku e ochiro!

It literally means “fall to hell!” But… This isn’t something most Japanese people use or would even really understand. While 地獄 (jigoku) does mean “hell”, Japanese people aren’t often Christian and don’t believe in hell.

So the more natural Japanese way to say something like this would be 死ね (shine), which you’ve probably heard in anime a lot, and it means “go die.” くたばれ (kutabare) is also a close equivalent to “go to hell” and pretty much means to f* off.

Even that’s pretty dramatic though. More like, you’d hear ばかやろう! (baka yarou) which is like “you idiot!” or “you a**hole!”

If learning to curse in other languages is your thing, then you can learn more Japanese curse words in this article about Japanese slang and dirty words from around the world.

“To Come” in Japanese: 来る, kuru

Our next major movement verb is 来る (kuru), which means “to come” in Japanese.

In Japanese, there are only two irregular verbs, and this is one of them. (The other is する, suru, “to do”.)

But since they’re so common, they’re easy to learn. Let’s take a look at the conjugation.

How to Conjugate 来る

Casual Form:

  • “Don’t come” or “won’t come”, present negative: 来る→ 来ない, konai. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to o (こ) and add -nai.
  • “Didn’t come”, past negative: 来る → 来なかった, konakatta. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to o (こ) and add -nakatta.
  • “Came” or “have come”, past tense: 来る → 来た, kita. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -ta.
  • “Coming”, present progressive: 来る → 来ている, kite iru. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -te iru.
  • “Was coming” or “already arrived”, past progressive: 来る → 来ていた, kite ita. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -te ita.

Polite Form:

  • “Come”, present tense: 来る→ 来ます, kimasu. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -masu.
  • “Don’t come” or “won’t come”, present negative: 来る→ 来ません, kimasen. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -masen.
  • “Didn’t come”, past negative: 来る → 来ませんでした, kimasen deshita. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -masen deshita.
  • “Came” or “have come”, past tense: 来る → 来ました, kimashita. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -mashita.
  • “Coming”, present progressive: 来る → 来ています, kite imasu. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -te imasu.
  • “Was coming” or “already arrived”, past progressive: 来る → 来ていました, kite imashita. Drop ru, change verb stem u (く) to (き) and add -te imashita.

Just like 行く, you can also use 来る to say “please come here” which would be ここに来てください (koko ni kite kudasai).

Iku vs Kuru in Japanese

Okay, so let’s talk about the difference between 行く, “to go”, and 来る, “to come.”

It may seem straightforward, and often it is. But in some situations where you would use “go” in English, you’d actually use “come” in Japanese, and vice versa.

行く (iku) in Japanese implies motion away from the speaker. 来る (kuru) implies motion toward the speaker.

It’s mostly tricky when talking about yourself, because you’re the speaker. So let’s say your friend calls you up and asks:

Friend: “Hey, will you come over to my place?”
You: “Yeah, I’ll come.”

But in Japanese, because the subject is moving away from the speaker (as in, you are moving away from your current location), you wouldn’t use 来る. You’d say 行く as in “Yeah, I’ll go to you.”

It’s not that we can’t say that too in English, it just sounds a bit less natural. In Japanese, though, that’s the correct way to use it.

Another way to think about it is that 行く means “to go somewhere” and 来る means “to come from somewhere”.

Now, there’s also the situation of iku vs yuku, both of which are written as 行く.

They mean the same thing, but yuku is an older reading of 行く from before World War II. Nowadays, it’s mainly only used in formal situations and poetry.

For example, you may hear it as “headed to” when traveling, such as:

Toukyou-yuki densha
“Train to Tokyo” or “Train headed to Tokyo”

How to Use ~ていく and ~てくる

This could be a whole lesson on its own, but I wanted to briefly explain the grammar patterns ~ていく (te iku) and ~てくる (te kuru).

In English, we often say things like “I’m going to buy a new outfit” or “I’m going to bring a game to play.”

In Japanese, we would use ~ていく and ~てくる for these patterns.

~ていく means “to go to do something”, something is “going away” from you, or to express something that you think will happen in the future.

Some examples:

Sono aidoru wa zettai ninki ni natte iku.
“That idol group will definitely become popular.”

Yasumi ni machi kara dete itta.
“I went out of town on vacation.”

As for ~てくる, it means “to do something and come back”, something is “coming toward” you, or to express something will happen starting now (especially something that started suddenly).

Ame ga futte kuru
“(Suddenly) it’s raining.”

Sushi o katte kuru.
“I’ll buy sushi (and bring it to you).”

In the second example, you’d use this when talking to someone and expressing the action you’ll be doing before returning to the listener. So in this case, it implies they’ll go buy sushi and bring it with them to the listener.

“To Bring” and “To Take” – 持ってくる vs 持っていく

Let’s say you want to say you’re going to bring something to a friend’s house. You’d use the verb 持つ (motsu) which means “to hold” in て-form + くる.

So 持ってくる (motte kuru) would mean “to hold and bring it back toward the listener”. So, in other words, “to bring.”

Pa-ti- ni bi-ru o motte kuru.
“I’ll bring beer to the party.”

As for 持っていく (motte iku), which is 持つ in て-form + いく, it means “to hold and take away from the listener” or… “to take.”

Korera no hon o motte iku.
“I’ll take these books.”

A note here: You probably noticed that I’ve used hiragana for いく and くる when using it as part of the て grammar pattern. This is most common, but sometimes it’s written as て行く or て来る.

There are tons more ways to use ~ていく and ~てくる, but this is a good starting point. As you can see, 行く and 来る are two of the most important verbs to learn because they have so many uses.

Japanese Slang for “Go”

There’s one slang term for “go” you might see on occasion. It’s usually during online gaming but sometimes text as well.

In Japanese, the number five, 五, is read as “go” in Japanese. So to save time typing, sometimes you’ll see 555 which means “go go go!”

Other Japanese Motion Verbs to Know

There are more motion verbs to learn too, besides the two most important ones. Here’s a list of other ways to express movement:

  • To exercise: 運動する, undou suru
  • To move: 動く, ugoku
  • To return home: 帰る, kaeru
  • To pass through, to go through: 通る, tooru
  • To go back and forth, to commute: 通う, kayou
  • To go over something, to cross over: 越える, koeru
  • To cross: 渡る, wataru
  • To go ahead: 先に行く, saki ni iku
  • To go back, to return: 戻る, modoru
  • To leave, to go away or depart: 去る, saru
  • To exit, to leave: 出る, deru
  • To go out (to leave): 出かける, dekakeru
  • To go in, to enter: 入る, hairu
  • To put in: 入れる, ireru
  • To throw: 投げる, nageru
  • To continue, to keep up or go on: 続ける, tsuzukeru
  • To climb up: 登る, noboru
  • To get off (or get out of a vehicle), to descend: 降りる, oriru
  • To fly: 飛ぶ, tobu
  • To fall: 落ちる, ochiru
  • To walk: 歩く, aruku
  • To stroll: 散歩する, sanpo suru
  • To run: 走る, hashiru
  • To roll: ころころ, korokoro, or 転がす, korogasu

Time to Go Onto the Next Lesson!

I bet you didn’t think there’d be so much to learning “go” in Japanese! But it’s one of the handiest words you can learn. I mean, you learned how to say a ton of things from this one topic!

Now it’s time to go on to your next Japanese lesson. What will you learn next? Here are some suggestions:

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Caitlin Sacasas

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

Caitlin is a copywriter, content strategist, and language learner. Besides languages, her passions are fitness, books, and Star Wars. Connect with her: Twitter | LinkedIn

Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

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