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What is the frame of reference for "come" (오다) and "go" (가다)?

As in, if I'm outside a house, and a person I'm talking to is between myself and the house, should I tell him to "go" to the house or "come" to the house?

  • May I inquire what amount of detail you require? I feel that the highest voted post here has more than enough detail. – blimpy Jun 26 '16 at 14:36
  • @blimpy there are 3 answers now, all upvoted and all different. I'd like to see consensus. Is there some logic? Or are these cases purely idiomatic? – Dima Tisnek Jun 30 '16 at 8:05
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    Ah, I see. puzzlet's answer contains the logic necessary to differentiate 가다 and 오다. Both verbs correlate to the speaker's viewpoint. So, any location away from the speaker is coupled with 가다. Furthermore, any location that the speaker is in is coupled with 오다. That's basically it. – blimpy Jun 30 '16 at 11:10
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+50

In short: "오다" and "가다" represent the speaker's viewpoint, while "I come" and "I go" represent the listener's.

So when ㄱ is asking ㄴ to come over and ㄴ responds, it would be like:

ㄱ: 여기로 줄래요? (lit. "Would you come over here?")

ㄴ: 지금 게요! (lit. "Going right now!")

while in English it would be:

ㄱ: Would you come over here?

ㄴ: I'm coming!

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  • Extra points for describing how it's different from English! – Dima Tisnek Jun 26 '16 at 14:02
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    What about this case: "거의 다 왔어!" (I'm almost there!) – Leftium Jun 26 '16 at 23:19
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    "거의 다 왔어" could seem idiomatic, but can make sense this way: Let's say you'd finally arrived there, then you would say "다 왔다", not *"다 갔다", because in your point of view, the direction of the movement was towards your location right now. So you would say "거의 다 왔어" too. On the other hand, when you're telling your past experience, you could say "거의 다 가서 길이 막혔지" (I was almost there but got stuck in traffic) instead of "거의 다 와서 ...", especially when it has nothing to do about your location right now. – puzzlet Jul 1 '16 at 2:00
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We can use English as a pretty good comparison in this case. The rules will be pretty similar.

  1. If both parties are outside the house, then you'd use "go."
    • Go into the house.
    • 집에 들어 가세요.
  2. If the speaking party is inside the house, then you'd use "come."
    • Come into the house.
    • 집에 들어 오세요.
  3. If both parties are outside, and the speaker is suggesting both parties go inside.
    • Let's go in the house.
    • 집에 들어 갑시다.
  4. If both parties are outside, but the speaking party is going toward the house while suggesting the listening party join them.
    • Come into the house.
    • 집에 들어 오세요.
    • Let's go into the house. (also good in this context)
    • 집에 들어 갑시다. (also good in this context)
  5. (Past tense question) If the speaking party is asking the listening party whether they've visited the speaking party's house, both 오다 and 가다 work, as in English, regardless of the speaker's position.
    • Have you gone to my house?
    • 우리 집에 가 보셨어요?
    • Have you come to my house?
    • 우리 집에 와 보셨어요?
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    In English, starting with "Go" seems rather like a command, and impolite in many circumstances. "Let's go in" or "You can go in" would be more typical. If it's my home and we're both outside, I'd probably say "Come in!". Does Korean distinguish these cases? – Matthew Read Jun 21 '16 at 18:04
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    @MatthewRead good point. I've edited in some more situations for more detail, does it help? – user12 Jun 21 '16 at 18:09
  • Is the point of reference of 가다/오다 always the person that is moving? – 파울울 Jun 21 '16 at 18:25
  • @graup It's going to be from the reference the speaker. – user12 Jun 21 '16 at 18:26
  • Is it? So, when you ask someone "Have you come (to your) home?" would it be 짐에 왔어 or 짐에 갔어? – 파울울 Jun 21 '16 at 18:33
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If you are outside a house, and a person you are talking to is between yourself and the house, you should say "집으로 가세요".

If you are outside a house, and you are between a person you are talking to and the house, you should say "집으로 오세요".

'가다 (go)' and '오다 (come)' are not significantly different between Korean and English. But there are a few exceptions.

In English, when you are asking a host if you can join the party, you ask "Can I come to the (your) party?". However, in Korean, you should say "파티에 가도 돼요?" If you ask "파티에 와도 돼요?", it would sound weird.

In English, when your mom asks you to come down for dinner, you say "I am coming now". But, in Korean, you should say "지금 가요" or "지금 가고 있어요". It would sound weird, too if you say "지금 와요" or "지금 오고 있어요".

It is common to use 'to come' as if you were in the listener's direction in English, but it is not the case in Korean.

If you move from an A place to B and you are in A, you say "B로 가다" no matter where a listener is.

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