What’s the meaning of “Ittekimasu”(行ってきます)?

Greetings play an important role in every different culture. I would say greetings are the connection between people. Either giving greetings or receiving the greetings from others can warm up my heart.

The Japanese for greeting is “aisatsu”, maybe many of you have already known some of the frequently used greeting phrases, such as “ohayou gozaimasu” or “konnichiwa”. However, “aisatsu” in Japan is not only about saying hello to others, more importantly, it is about showing your respect or politeness.

Today, I am going to introduce a common fixed phrase that people use in everyday life ー “ittekimasu”.

In this article, you will learn about the meaning, pronunciation, when to use, and the response for “ittekimasu”. Lastly, there are two conversations in the end of the article!

A look into “ittekimasu”

“Ittekimasu” is a phrase in formal present form, which usually written as “いってきます”, “行ってきます”, or “行って来ます” with kanji or only with hiragana.

The very first thing you need to know is that “ittekimasu” is used by the person who is leaving from a place.

“Ittekimasu” can be literally translated into “I am leaving now, and I will be back.” The informal present form is 行ってくる(ittekuru), which is often used when people are talking to close friends and family members.

While “ittekimasu” is used frequently to let your family know that you are leaving home for other places, of course, this phrase can be used when you are leaving from anywhere to other places as well. In this case, we can also consider the meaning of “ittekimasu” is similar to “see you later” in English.

Though we can easily translate the phrase literally into English, there are other meanings carried behind the words with the spirit of Japanese. Sometimes, except for simply informing the remaining people that you are going out, “ittekimasu” can also deliver one’s feeling with the messages such as “I’ll be back”, “wait for my return”, depending on situations.

The Etymology

Let’s break the phrase into two parts, “itte” and “kimasu”, and check how this phrase is formed!

行って (itte)

This part is originally come from a verb, 行く (iku), which 行って (itte) is the -て (te) form of the verb “iku”.

The basic definition of 行く (iku) is “to go”, and is used when you are talking about moving from one place to another. Since this is one of the first verbs to be taught to students who are learning Japanese, let’s check the common usages of this verb below.

JapaneseEnglish
formal present formバスで学校に行きます (basu de gakkou ni ikimasu)I go to school by bus.
informal present form歩いて学校に行く (aruite gakkou ni iku)I go to school on foot.

If you have not yet learned about the -te form grammar, let me have a simple explanation of this frequently used grammar.

In this phrase “ittekimasu”, -te form plays the role as a simple conjunction in a sentence. The function of -te form is to express the sequential order and to join clauses. To be simplified, the usage here of -te form can be considered as the meaning of “and”. Of course, there are many other usages of this grammar, and each of them carries different meanings.

きます (kimasu)

This part comes from the verb, くる (kuru), which きます(kimasu) is the ます (masu) form of the verb “kuru”.

The literal meaning of くる (kuru) is “to come”. Referring to the action of returning back in “ittekimasu”.

Since the verb “kuru” is an irregular verb, it can be a little bit challenging for a beginner at Japanese to recognize the conjugated form from the dictionary form during conjugation.

Pronunciation of ittekimasu

To pronounce correctly, we should pay attention to how to pronounce 行って (itte). We can find there is a “っ” in the word, which is called “small tsu” or “silent tsu”. “っ” is derived from “つ (tsu)”, but we don’t have a sound for “っ”. When we have “small tsu” between the words, we should make a pause. Take 行って(itte) for example, we can consider each character to be one syllable. In this case, 行って is made with three syllables and we need to stop for one syllable between 行 and て.

How to use” ittekimasu” appropriately?

No matter whether you are going to study, work, or travel in Japan, I am sure that this is a phrase that you will use at least one time every single day. Let me list down some of the common occasions that you can say “ittekimasu”.

At home…

  • When you are going out shopping, you will come back very quick or in hours.
  • When you are leaving for school / work, you will come back in one day.
  • When you are going on a trip for a few days.
  • When you are leaving for studying / working / traveling in another city or even in foreign countries for years.

While mostly you use “ittekimasu” when you are going to come back in a short period, the phrase can be used when leaving a place for years as well. As long as you have a plan to come back, “ittekimasu” can be considered conveying the meaning that you promise you will come back in the future.

At workplace…

  • When you are leaving for visiting clients / getting some food down stairs…, and you will come back very quick or in hours before getting off from work.

At a hotel or other accommodation …

  • When you are going out for sightseeing.
  • When you are going to have meals / grab some food nearby.

Except for the examples listed above, what else can you think of that you might have the chance to say “ittekimasu”?

When shouldn’t you say “ittekimasu”?

While we have learnt when to use “ittekimasu”, there are still some situations that are inappropriate to use. To avoid misusing the phrase, please check the example below.

  • When getting off from work.
  • When leaving someone’s home.
  • When leaving from a store / restaurant.
  • When checking out from a hotel.

What is the response to “ittekimasu”?

いってらっしゃい (itterasshai)

The literal translation is “go and come back”. It is normal that the translation sounds unnatural, since the distinctions between cultures always have influences on languages as well. The meaning “Itterasshai” carrying the meaning close to “see you later”.

One of the points that makes Japanese interesting is that there are many other meanings behind some expressions. By discussing “itterasshai” in various situations, we can find the messages it carries are more than “see you later”.

  • Be safe on the way.
  • Have a nice day!
  • Have fun!
  • I will be waiting for you.

Expression with “ittekimasu”

Except for using “ittekimasu” as a single fixed sentence, we can attach another clause in front of “ittekimasu” as well to clearly let others know where are you going or what are you going to do.

The structure is

『 The destination / purpose of movement 』 + に (ni) + 行ってきます

に (ni) is a particle that indicates purpose.

This part which describes the purpose of movement can be a noun, or a phrase with a verb. The verb here must be in the stem form, which is also known as -masu form, but without -masu being attached. Let’s check with some examples.

  • 学校に行ってきます。      I am going to school.
  • ちょっとトイレに行ってきます。 One minute, I need to go to the bathroom.
  • 図書館に勉強しに行ってきます。 I am going to library for studying.

Conversation

(Tom and Mary are husband and wife.)

Tom::あ、時間がない。会社に行かないと! Ah! I am running out of time. I must be off to work!

Mary:忘れ物ないようにしてね。      Make sure you have everything with you.

Tom:はい、行ってきます。

Mary:行ってらっしゃい。

(John and Joy are roommates. Joy is off for a job interview.)

Joy:面接に行ってきます。     I am going to have a job interview.

John:あ、頑張てね!       Ah! Do your best!

Joy:ありがとう。行ってきます。

John:行ってらっしゃい。

Summary

From the above conversations, what do you think the meaning “ittekimasu” and “itterasshai” carried behind “see you later”? I am sure the answer differs from person to person. Next time when you have the chance to use those phrases please try to “feel” it!

  • “Ittekimasu” is used by the person who is leaving from a place.
  • The phrase can be literally translated into “I am leaving, and I’ll be back”. The meaning of the phrase is close to “see you later”.
  • “itterasshai” is the response to “ittekimasu”.
  • You can use”〜 + に(ni) + ittekimasu” to specifically point out where you are heading to.
About YUJUNG 17 Articles
Hi! I’m Yujung from Taiwan. Decided to start my career in Kansai area Japan in 2019, I’ve always considered this a right decision ever made in my life. WHY? There are way too many things waiting for me to discover, such as the charming language, spectacular nature, colorful seasons and lovely people!