Lesson – Come Vs. Go

Come Vs. Go

Come and go mean different things, and can’t be used interchangeably. Using come will be wrong if you should mean go, and using go wrong when you should use come. And most of the time it should be either one or the other. It’s rare that we can use both come and go for the same situation(/movement).

Go is used a lot more often than come, which you can see in the list of the 1,000 most used verbs, where go is the 5th most used verb, and come the 15th. Both are used a lot, but there will be a huge difference in 5 and 15 on the list since the verbs near the very top are used a lot more than all of the others.

The difference

To understand which of the two to use, you have to think about what is more important in your sentence:

  • the subject of the sentence doing the moving (coming or going), or
  • the place, person or event the subject is moving to.

If the subject and its movement is more important, use go, and if the person, place or event that the subject is moving to is more important, use come.

So important… what does that mean? There are a couple of ways to think about it that can help.

One way is to think about whose eyes the movement is being seen through. If it’s more the eyes of the person or thing doing the movement, then use go, and if it’s more the person/place/event the movement is to, then use come.

Another, is to think about where the center of action of the sentence is – the thick of the plot – 1) before arrival or 2) at the time of arrival. If the center of action is with the subject and the process of moving, then use go, and if it’s with the person, place, or even the subject is moving to and focuses on the consequence somehow of the arrival, use come.

Examples

Let’s look at some examples.

I’m going to a party tonight.
About ten people will be coming to our party tonight. 

How about this one?

My mom is glad that I’m going/coming home for Christmas. 

Which do you think should be: going or coming? Let’s think about it.

The subject in this one is pretty important. He’s both doing the movement and talking about it. But what’s the main point of the sentence? It’s that movement is home and to mom, isn’t it? The truth is (to a native English speaker’s ears) that this makes them more important than the subject in this sentence. They’re the center of the action, and it’s their eyes the movement is being seen through. So it’s coming.

My mom is glad that I’m coming home for Christmas.