Homophones, or words that have the same sound but different meanings, exist in many languages.
In English, for instance, the words “where” and “wear” are homophones. Both sound identical when spoken aloud, but the two words have vastly different meanings.
Japanese is no exception when it comes to this kind of word.
The use of kanji often help distinguish between different words with the same sound, but if a word is written in hiragana or being said out loud you have to determine the correct meaning from context.
In this article, we’ll examine the verb きます (kimasu), a homophone with two typical word meanings.
What does きます (kimasu) mean?
きます has two possible meanings in most contexts. The first option for this word is 来ます, most often meaning “to come” or “to arrive” although it can also be used in other ways.
Another possibility is 着ます, meaning “to wear” or “to put on.” No matter which word it stands in for, きます is a verb and is conjugated in the “masu,” or polite, form.
Keep in mind that means that to properly use these verbs, that means you will need to know their base form. For 着ます (“to wear”) the base form of きます is 着る (kiru).
On the other hand, 来ます (“to come”) is an irregular verb which has a base form of 来る (kuru).
There are a number of other verbs which have a base form of kiru, but these verbs conjugate to きります instead of きます so if you see きます written down it is most likely one of the two meanings listed here.
来る and きます
The verb 来る (kuru) at its core means “to come.” Like in English, 来ます is intransitive, so you shouldn’t add a direct object to it.
来る is an interesting verb because, unlike the vast majority of Japanese verbs, it follows an irregular conjugation pattern.
Instead of dropping the “ru” and adding a “masu” to the end like a ru-verb, 来る follows its own strange rules by dropping the “ru” and changing the “ku” to a “ki” to make its verb stem.
In fact, records of 来る’s irregular conjugation dates back to the Old Japanese used in 8th-century documents!
This means that the “masu” form of 来る is not “くます” but “きます.” This form of the verb implies present or future tense, depending on the rest of the sentence.
There are also a number of unusual ways you can use 来ます in a sentence to add nuance to other verbs, discussed below.
Note, though, that you can’t use 来ます for “to orgasm” like you can the English word come. In Japanese, the word for “to go” (行く) is used instead.
来ます meaning “to come” or “to arrive”
The usual way to use 来ます is to note that something is coming or that something has arrived.
You can use this type of きます when the train arrives, when someone is coming over to visit and in many other situations.
来ます is a verb, and in a Japanese sentence it should be preceded in most cases by either は or が (the “topic marker” or “subject marker” particles).
In a sentence where something is coming to an indirect object, に or へ should be used, depending on which is more appropriate.
来ます with no object:
[subject] が 来ます.
来ます with an indirect object
[subject] が [indirect object] に 来ます.
The train is coming.
It says the package will arrive tomorrow.
Note that you will often hear the more formal 参ります (mairimasu) used on announcements for trains and other types of public transportation.
来ます (kimasu) for ongoing actions
One special way to use 来ます is to add it to the end of another verb to show that the action of that verb has continued until now.
In this use of 来ます, you do not typically use kanji for the き.
Grammatically, you need to conjugate the verb with the ongoing action to its て (te) form.[verb]てきます
“There’s been quite a lot of rain, huh?”
Although the translation does not specify it, the use of きます shows that the rain is still happening or has very recently stopped.
きます to suggest a return
Another special use of 来ます is to add it to the end of a verb in て form to show or imply a “return.”
This is why this verb appears in the stock phrase 行ってきます (“I’m going”), used when leaving the home.
The きます part implies that the person is going and then coming back later, although the latter is usually ignored in English translations.
You can also use this to suggest that you will fetch something and bring it back to the person to whom you are speaking.
“I’m going tomorrow.”
“I’ll go get my homework.”
Note that neither of these explicitly mention coming back in English. Just like how you wouldn’t usually say “I’ll get my homework and bring it to you,” however, in Japanese the intention is clear.
きます when receiving things
The last common way to use きます that this article will cover is its use to show that you are receiving something from someone.
This is a neat trick, because it makes a sentence less ambiguous even if the subject is implied. Any sentence using きます in this way has an implied subject of “I” or “me.”
Again, this special use of きます uses the て form for the preceding verb.
In this case, however, the previous verb used is almost always 持つ (motsu), to hold/have.
Usually, the verb きます will actually be conjugated in the past tense (きました) in this case, because you are often talking about things in the past.
“I’ll get my ID card soon.”
Although the word “come” does not appear in the English translation, note that きます appears after 持って, meaning “to hold,” changing the meaning to more like “I will be given.”
It’s also worth noting that although this and the previous example both use 持ってきます, the meaning is completely different due to the different contexts.
This really drives home how important it is to pay attention to the topic under discussion in Japanese, rather than just memorizing specific words.
“I got the package!”
着る and きます
Our second contender for きます is the verb 着る (kiru), which means “to wear” or “to put on.”
Unlike 来る, this verb follows a regular pattern. It is an 一段 (ichidan) verb, so to get the verb stem you just drop that る the same way you would with 食べる, みる, and various other -ru verbs.
The polite “masu” form of the verb 着る, in other words, is きます. Again, this represents either the present or future tense of the verb, depending on context.
Because this verb follows the same pattern as other ichidan verbs, it is easy to figure out the other conjugations.
Instead, let’s move on to using this verb in a sentence.
着ます for wearing clothes
The most typical way you will see this きます verb used is to describe clothes that people are wearing.
As in English, you will need a direct object for 着ます to describe what you are wearing, making this a transitive verb.
Remember that Japanese is a SVO (Subject Verb Object) language, so the correct form is: [subject] は [object] を 着ます
The subject of Japanese sentences is often implied, rather than explicitly stated, so you may more commonly see or hear just [object] を 着ます instead.
What are you wearing?
Tomorrow, I will wear a new suit.
着ます for putting on clothes
An alternative way to use 着ます is to say that someone is “putting on” the clothes.
Unlike English, the same verb as “to wear” is used.
Both uses of 着ます are conjugated and placed in a sentence identically, so context is needed to figure out whether the person in question is already wearing something or is putting it on now.
It’s cold, so I’ll put on a jacket.
Again, “I’m wearing a jacket” may be a more appropriate translation here.
きます as Internet slang: キターーーーーー！
One odd way to use 来ます is as slang online.
In this case, it means something like “Finally!” or “It’s here!” and implies a long-awaited event is happening.
To use the word this way, put it in the past tense and in katakana, and add dashes after it to show excitement.
If a new season of your favorite anime was made after a five-year wait you might head to Twitter to say 「キターーーーーー！」
Just like a regular verb, you can put the subject and が before this use of きます。
However, this is a kind of otaku usage, so beware!<
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.