"Kita" can mean "It's coming"?!

edited February 18 in Japanese
来た kita (polite form: 来ました kimashita) is the past tense form of the verb 来る kuru (polite form: 来ます kimasu), which means "to come". Because it is in the past tense form, naturally we expect 来た kita to mean "came" just as the following example shows:

Kinou tomodachi ga uchi ni kita.

Yesterday, a friend of mine came over to my house.

So, we expect that the Japanese 来た kita and the English "came" are used in the same way, but in fact, there are cases where Japanese people use 来た kita where English speakers never use "came".

Here's an example: imagine that you are waiting for a bus at a bus stop. Then a bus came into your sight and you see it's approaching. At that point, you would probably say, "A bus is coming". In the same situation however, a Japanese would say, バスが来た basu ga kita, which literally means, "A bus came".

As an English speaker, you wouldn't say, "A bus came" (or "A bus has come") because the bus has not yet reached the bus stop. But for a Japanese speaker, since a bus has come into the sight, the bus has "virtually" or "psychologically" already arrived.

This kind of subtle usage difference between English and Japanese is a blind spot, but it is very important if you want to speak like a native. We will keep posting those blind spots here, so stay tuned!

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