I don't understand what this article is saying:

We use come to describe movement between the speaker and listener, and movement from another place to the place where the speaker or listener is. We usually use go to talk about movement from where the speaker or listener is to another place.

When we talk about another person (someone who is neither the speaker nor the listener), we can use either come or go, depending on whether the speaker sees things from the receiver’s viewpoint (come) or the doer’s viewpoint (go).

[doer]Yolanda came to [receiver]her mother for help.

We use come when we see things from the receiver’s viewpoint (in this case the mother).

[doer]Melissa went to [receiver]her mother for help.

We use go when we see things from the doer’s viewpoint (in this case Melissa).

Could you explain it clearly?

  • 2
    What confuses you about the explanation? What particular parts are you having trouble with? (PS: this question belongs on a different English site within the StackExchange network, English Language Learners; we will move it there for you.)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 16:40
  • 1
    Try Fillmore's account of "Coming and Going", from the Deixis Lectures. Commented May 4, 2016 at 16:41
  • 1
    @JohnLawler I will not sleep until I've finished reading your link. Thanks.
    – user24743
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 16:45
  • 2
    @JohnLawler That link looks interesting, but if Tom has trouble understanding he brief and straightforward explanation he quotes, I don't think he'll be able to make heads or tails of the paper. Which is why I'd appreciate it if you (and Ranthiny) could vote to migrate to ELL.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 16:47
  • 2
    @Rathony You know several languages. Do any of them actually lack exact analogs for the pair of verbs come and go? I'd almost expect those to be linguistic universals.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 17:21

3 Answers 3


The short answer: go is used when something or someone is leaving or moving away from you.

You: "Please go."

Other: "Okay I'll leave. Bye."

Come is used when something or someone is moving from their position to yours.

You: "Come here."

Other: "I'll be right there."

In this example you are telling another person to move from wherever he/she is and move to where you are.

In the article you quoted, the examples are from a third person's perspective and are in past tense. Here are some examples similar to the ones in the article:

"His friend went to the store the other day to buy some fruit."

His friend is the doer because he/she is the one who went to the store.

"Her dad came over and said hello to Jason last Tuesday"

Her dad is the doer and Jason is the receiver.

Something else I noticed about the article: went and came are used in a slightly more complex way than the way I used them in my examples. In the first sentence, Yolanda may have, but did not necessarily physically move from her location to her mother's location. It can certainly be inferred that for Yolanda to get help from her mother she had to physically go to her mother, but it's less clear than in my examples. The sentence, in black and white, only means that Yolanda sought out help from her mother. Also, I'm not sure I would agree with the article's explanation. If the first sentence is from the mother's viewpoint then why did she refer to herself in the third person? She should have said "Yolanda came to me for help" instead.


Go and went have different meanings in the article's sentences than in mine. In my sentences, they mean to move from a place to a different place. In their sentences, they mean to get help from someone. The difference is subtle but present.


In the context of the article, a simpler way to put it is to use "come" when the destination is either the speaker or the listener, or their location. Use "go" when the destination is a third party, or a location where neither the speaker or listener currently are. "I will come to you." "Please come here." "He will come to me." but "I will go to him." When the destination is a location rather than a person, you can still infer whether the speaker or listener is at said location. "I will come to the park." implies the listener is already at the park. Likewise, "Please come to the park." implies the speaker is already there, whereas you might say "Please go to the park and wait for me there."


A simple explanation of the difference can be seen in the following example:

John is at his house. John says, "This afternoon, I will go to the park."

Steve is at the park. Steve says, "This afternoon, John will come to the park."

From John's point of view, he is "going" to another place. From Steve's point of view, John is "coming" from another place.


Sarah could say two things that mean the same thing, since she is not at John's house or at the park:

  1. "This afternoon, John will go from his house to the park."

  2. "This afternoon, John will come to the park from his house."

Sarah has a number of other ways that she could phrase what is happening, depending on what she is trying to emphasize or how she might be involved in John's plans for the day.

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