Come Vs. Go

Commonly confused words are terms with similar sounds or meanings that English language learners often struggle with. In the past, I’ve blogged about make vs. dohope vs. wish, above, over, under & below, and countless others (scroll down to the Commonly Confused Words section in our Grammar Day Roundup 2017 for a complete list).

Today I want to discuss two verbs that my students often mix up: come and go. I’d often hear “When I come back to Japan” or “When I go back to here” in my Canadian classroom.

Coming or Going?

Though they have similar meanings, most cases of come and go are clear‑cut.

Come means to move toward something. We often use it for sentences about visiting and home.

  • Come here.
  • Come over.
  • Come to my place around 7:00 pm.
  • My aunt is coming to visit next week.

Go means to move in a direction. We often use it for sentences about travel or other outings.

  • I’m going on vacation.
  • Let’s go to the movies.
  • I can’t wait to go to the beach next weekend!
  • He will go to the grocery store on his way home.

Sometimes either come or go is possible, with no substantial difference in meaning, especially with progressive (-ing) tenses.

  • Are you coming to my party?
  • Are you going to my party?
  • I’m coming with you.
  • I’m going with you.

In the expression coming or goingcoming means arriving and going means leaving.

  • I’m so glad I ran into you! Are you coming or going?

Come Back Vs. Go Back

The expressions come back and go back follow a simple rule:

Use “come back” if you are currently at the place you’re referring to.

Use “go back” if you are not currently at the place you’re referring to.

Let’s compare!

Example Notes
I want to come back to California next year. (I’m on vacation in California right now.)
I want to go back to California next year. (I’m back home in Korea right now.)
Come back after dropping your friend off. (We’re at my house right now.)
Go back and return the item you took by mistake. (We’re outside of the store right now.)
Are you coming back later? (We are both at a party right now, and you are about to leave.)
Let’s go back to class. (We are in the cafeteria right now.)

Are there any other commonly confused words that your students mix up? Do you have any tips that will help students remember the differences? Share them with us in the Comments section below!

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