Easily Confused Words: COME vs. GO

The common verbs "come" and "go" are often confusing. One reason this happens is that come and go have the same basic meaning, but are used for different directions.


1. Difference between "Come" and "Go"

COME:

  • In English, the use of “come” depends on the current positions of the speaker and the listener.
  • If we talk about the direction toward the speaker or toward the listener, then we use “come”.

E.g. My cousin is coming to see me next week.

       Are you coming to my party?

      May I come to your party, too?

      That man's coming toward us. Who is he?

  • When we make plans, and talk about the direction toward our future position, then we also use “come”.

Eg: I’m moving to New York in July. My parents are coming to visit me in August.

GO:

  • If we talk about any other direction, we have to use “go”. In other words, we usually use "go" to talk about movement from where the speaker or listener is to another place.

E.g. I'm going to see my cousin next week.

       Are you going to Bill's party?

       That man's going toward your car. Who is he?

       I need to go to the bank this afternoon.

When we talk about another person (someone who is neither the speaker nor the listener), we can use either come or go, depending on whether the speaker sees things from the receiver’s viewpoint (come) or the doer’s viewpoint (go).

2. Take an example

Jame has gone to Japan for work, and right now he’s at his hotel. Sarah is in Bangkok.

  • Jame: It’s great here. I wish you could come visit me.

(He uses “come”, because he’s talking about the direction toward himself.)

  • Sarah: I wish I could come, too. Are you going anywhere tomorrow?

(She uses “come”, because she’s talking about the direction toward the listener. And she uses “go” because she’s asking about a direction that isn’t toward either or them)

  • Jame: I’m going to Mt.Fuji. I’m coming back to the hotel at 9 pm. What are you doing tomorrow?

(Because the hotel is his current position, he uses “come”. But Mt. Fuju isn’t the current position of either of them, so he uses “go”)

  • Sarah: My friend from Laos is coming here. We’re going to Pataya.

(Because Sarah’s friend is coming in her direction, she uses “come”. Then they go in a different direction, so she uses “go”).

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Easily Confused Words: COME vs. GO

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