The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
January 28th, 2022
Word Count:
640 (5:00 read time)
Filed Under:

A Succinct Japanese Phrase That Has a Lot Going On

I recently learned the phrase "Itte kimasu". It means "I will go, I will come back".

Now, that looks and sounds fairly trivial, yes?

(It does to me)

Here's the thing ... I'd like to break this one down to show just how much goes into understanding this seemingly trivial phrase. This will do a pretty decent job of showing what my homeschooler and I have been learning over the past few weeks.

1. It's Two Verbs/Predicates In a row.

When you're using two successive predicates in Japanese (verbs, i-adjectives, or na-adjectives), the first (N-1) of these need to be converted to their "te-" form. So that 1st verb in this phrase must be in said form.

It might be worth a quick grammar refresher and looking at the definition of "predicate":

pred·i·cate [noun]:
1. the part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g., "went home" in "John went home").
2. state, affirm, or assert (something) about the subject of a sentence or an argument of a proposition ("a word that predicates something about its subject")
2. Analyzing the First Verb

The first verb is "ikimasu" (to go). This is also known as "iku" (in it's dictionary present tense/familiar form). E.g:

ikimasu    ("I go" / formal)
iku    ("I go" / informal)

To convert it to it's "te-" form, start with the dictionary past tense "itta" (to have gone), and the [loose] conversion rules appear to be:
(a) take any trailing "ta" and convert it to "te"
(b) take any trailing "da" and convert it to "de".

For example/tatoeba:

"Drank" is "nonda", therefore it's "te-" form is "non de"
"Ate" is "tabeta", therefore ... tabe te"
"Bought" is "katta", therefore ... "kat te"
"Read" is "yonda", therefore ... "yon de"
"Wrote" is "kaita", therefore ... "kai te"


"itta" in it's "te-" form is "itte"
3. Analyzing the Second Verb

The "kimasu" part is formal present tense of "to come", usually used like so:

"Gakkou kara kimasu"    ("I am coming from school")


"Seattle kara kimashita"    ("I have come from Seattle").
4. How the Overall Tense of the Sentence Is Determined

The tense of the last verb determines the tense of all prior verbs (read: "te-" verbs have no tense). In order to change this to "I have gone, I have come back", it would look like so:

"itte kimashita"
("I have gone, I have come back")

In this next example, the entire meaning of this sentence changes in three ways, as dictated by the tense of the last verb:

"Asa de, pan o tabe te, ko-hi o non de, gakkou ni ikimas"
"In the morning, bread I eat, coffee I drink, school I go to"
"Asa de, pan o tabe te, ko-hi o non de, gakkou ni ikimasen"
"In the morning, bread I don't eat, coffee I don't drink, school I don't go to"
"Asa de, pan o tabe te, ko-hi o non de, gakkou ni ikmashita"
"In the morning, bread I ate, coffee I drank, school I went to"
Bonus #1

As a huge bonus, to say "Please __(verb)___", it's just the te-form of the verb + "kudasai", e.g.:

tabete kudasai ("please eat")
nonde kudasai ("please drink")
itte kudasai ("please go")
Bonus #2

And as another huge bonus, "May I ___(verb)___", it's just the "te-" of the verb + "iidesuka", e.g.:

tabete iidesuka ("may I eat?")
nonde iidesuka ("may I drink?")
itte iidesuka ("may I go?)
Bonus #3

And the last huge bonus, to specify the progressive form of the verb, it's just the "te-" of the verb + "imasu", e.g.:

tabeteimasu ("I am eating")
nondeimasu ("I am drinking")
itteimasu ("I am going")