Directional verbs "lai" and "qu"


来 (lái) and 去 (qù) are both words that help to express direction from the perspective of the speaker. 来 (lái) means "come" (towards the speaker), while 去 (qù) means "go" (away from the speaker). For example, if you are in China, a local person might ask you: "When did you come to China?" using 来 (lái). Another example is if you want to go from China to Japan, your friends might ask you: “When are you going to Japan?" using 去 (qù).

Seems really easy, right? Well, learn them well now, because you'll get a lot of mileage out of these words in future grammar patterns.

Basic Usage


来 / 去 + Place


For the examples below, keep in mind that if the speaker uses 去 (qù), then she is not at the place mentioned now. If the speaker uses 来 (lái), she must already be at the place mentioned. Just stay consistent with this, and you're good.

  • 妈妈 要 超市。Māma yào chāoshì.Mom will go to the supermarket.
  • 老板 今天 公司 吗?Lǎobǎn jīntiān lái gōngsī ma?Is the boss coming into the office today?
  • 你 现在 南京 路 吧。Nǐ xiànzài lái Nánjīng Lù ba.Come to Nanjing Road now.
  • 你 不 想 我们 公司 工作 吗?Nǐ bù xiǎng lái wǒmen gōngsī gōngzuò ma?Do you not want to come to work for our company?
  • 去年 她 美国 工作 了 几 个 月 。Qùnián tā Měiguó gōngzuò le jǐ gè yuè.Last year she went to work in the USA for a few months.
  • 你们 想 Starbucks 还是 Costa? Nǐmen xiǎng Starbucks háishì Costa? Would you like to go to Starbucks or Costa?
  • 周末 我 喜欢 朋友 家。Zhōumò wǒ xǐhuan péngyou jiā.I like to go to my friends' places on the weekends.
  • 爸爸 明天 北京 出差。Bàba míngtiān Běijīng chūchāi.Dad will go to Beijing on a business trip tomorrow.
  • 我 今天 不 上班,你们 可以 我 家 吃饭 。Wǒ jīntiān bù shàngbān, nǐmen kěyǐ lái wǒ jiā chīfàn.I don't have to go to work today. You can come to my home to eat dinner.

Advanced Usage

来 (lái) and 去 (qù) can both be paired with other simple verbs to demonstrate the direction an action has taken. For example, 进来 (jìnlai, "come in"), 进去 (jìnqu, "go in"), 出来 (chūlai, "come out"), 出去 (chūqu, "go out"), 回来 (huílai, "come back"), 回去 (huíqu, "go back"), etc.

When you start tacking these two-character verbs onto the ends of other verbs, they are called direction complements, and are covered in detail in a more advanced article.

See also