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Lesson 18: Directions: Come vs Go in Chinese

Office Space

Do you think that ‘come in’ and ‘go in’ have the same meaning?

While both phrases are the synonym to the word ‘enter’, they are actually being used in different ways!

If you are at inside your house, and you’re asking the guest to enter your house, you’ll have to say: “come in”.

On the other hand, if you are at the outside of your house with the guest, and you’re letting the guest enter your house first, you’ll have to say: “go in”.

The key lies in the perspective of the speaker – the same rules apply in Chinese ‘to come’ and ‘to go’ as well.


Come vs Go in Chinese

来 (lái) is used to indicate ‘to come’ – the action is coming closer to the speaker.



Tā shì lái xué zhōngwén de.

He is here to learn Chinese.


Nǐ yǒu kòng shí, jìdé lái jiānádà zhǎo wǒ ó!

When you have time, remember to come to Canada to find me!


去 (qù) suggests ‘to go’ – the action is moving away from the speaker.



Jiějiě bù zàijiā, tā chūqùle.

The sister is not at home, she went out.


Lǐ zǒng jiào nǐ qù bàngōngshì yī tàng.

General Manager Li asked you to go to the office.


Tips to Remember!

If the speaker is not at the place mentioned, use 来 (lái).

In contrast, if the speaker is already at the place mentioned, use 去 (qù) instead.


Read: How to Differentiate the Three “De” Particles in Chinese


Repetition of an Action

If we want to express that an action is being repeated, we can use the following verb together with both 来 (lái) and去 (qù).

Structure: Verb + 来 + Verb + 去



xiǎnglái xiǎng qù

to think about something continuously


Wǒ xiǎnglái xiǎng qù yě xiǎng bù qǐ tā de míngzì.

I have been thinking over and over again but I still cannot remember her name.


zǒu lái zǒu qù

to move back and forth


Wǒ bù xǐhuān biérén zài wǒ sīkǎo de shíhòu zǒu lái zǒu qù.

I do not like people walking back and forth when I am thinking.

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