Today’s Question

You are making a tofu dish but forgot to buy it in the shop. You say to your teenage son:
とうふを( )きて。
a. かいに b. かって c. とって d. とりに

Today’s Topic: ~てくる

くる is a verb that means “to come” but it can be used as an auxiliary verb after the てform of a verb and the combination can mean:

  1. to ~ and come back
  2. to become ~, to get ~ (describing a gradual change)
  3. to continued to ~, to have ~ (describing something a person has continued to do)

Example of the Meaning 1: to ~ and come back

とうふをってきて (Today’s question sentence)
Please go and get tofu (and come back immediately).

Please go and mail this letter (and come back).

I went to see the exhibition (and came home).

I went to Tokyo to see my friend (and I am back). – Sounds like it happened quite recently.
Cf. 友だちにいに東京とうきょうきました。
I went to Tokyo to see my friend. – Sounds like it happened ages ago or the person who went hasn’t come back.

I’m off now. See you later.
This is what people say to the family members staying home when they are leaving home.

Examples of the Meaning 2: to become ~, to get ~

That drama has become exciting.

I am getting hungry.
Cf. おなかがすきました/おなかがすいています。
I am hungry.

I’m starting to gain weight (and I’m afraid I may continue to gain weight).
Cf. 最近さいきんふとった I’ve gained weight (but I don’t think I’m gaining any more).
  こんなにたくさんべたらふとる。I will get fat if I eat this much.

It will start to rain soon!

People are starting to understand the cause of the accident.

Examples of the Meaning 3: to continued to ~, to have ~

I have studies very hard so far.

John has taught English for 20 years.

I’ve kept making lunch for my son every day.

I’ve kept writing a blog every day.

Answer to Today’s Question: b

a. とうふをかいにきて means to “come and buy tofu,” so it is a line for a tofu vender.
b. とうふをかってきて is the correct answer.
c. とうふをとってきて means to “go and grab tofu and come home” – it sounds like you are asking your son to shoplift.
d. とうふをとりにきて means to “come and grab tofu.” This is a line for a person who is giving tofu away.

~をってきて(ください) is the most common way of asking somebody in the house to go and get something for you.

Another expression you may hear in a similar situation is とうふをかいにいって, which means to “go and buy tofu.” とうふをかいにいって is correct but it places more emphasis on “going,” so if you say that to a teenage son, he may not think that “bringing it home” is urgently required. If I want tofu ASAP, I will say とうふをかってきて rather than とうふをかいにいって.

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