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I've been unable to grammatically analyse the sentence

It is like a dream come true.

To me, it should either be

It is like a dream that has come true

or

It is like a dream comes true.

Or peculiarly, to come true could be used as a phrase here, and come true should be seen as a modifier.

Which interpretation is correct?

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Dictionary.com lists it as an "Idiom", definition 25 dictionary.reference.com/browse/true –  Ben Brocka Nov 7 '11 at 20:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

It is an elliptic form of a dream that has come true; you can see it as an example of a perfect passive participle (i.e. past participle). English-test.net sports a question similar to yours, and one of the answerers posted:

...not only is "dream come true" a set expression, but it is also perfectly correct from the grammatical point of view, because, as I'm sure you know, the verb "come" is irregular (come - came,come) whose "infinitive" form is identical to "past participle". Here the expression "to come true" (which means "to materialize, become a reality, become fulfilled" is used with the verb in the "past participle" form by analogy with "girls gone wild" or "teacher turned gangster". In other words, nothing to be surprised or puzzled by, because in this case everything makes perfect sense, even though in language it does not have to be this way.

Wordreference.com:

[Member 1]:

I think "come" is a past participle acting acting as an adjective here.

The dream has come true, it is a dream come true.

[Member 2]:

...[Member 1]'s explanation is the right one. In this expression, "come" is a past participle (with the verb "come" here meaning "become"), and the participial phrase "come true" is used as an adjective.

Here are other similar participial phrases used as adjectives:

She was an actress adored by her fans, but thought cold by those who knew her well.

The billboard was seen daily by thousands of people.

So your first explanation is half correct in that that has come true can be consolidated to the participial phrase come true. However, your third option is the closest, as evidenced by the explanations I quoted.

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The quote was why I raised this question. My third interpretation is with the claim in this quote, but I'm not sure it's definitive. –  Terry Li Nov 7 '11 at 21:01
    
Since it is based on English grammar rules and the forms of come, it is certainly definitive. –  Daniel Nov 7 '11 at 21:08
    
So basically, the word "come" is used as a transitive verb in the context? I thought the verb "come" could only be regarded as intransitive. Any other example where "come" is being used in its transitive sense? –  Terry Li Nov 7 '11 at 21:12
    
It's not transitive; there isn't an object. Whenever come is used to mean become, it takes an adjective (as in came true or came untied), not a noun (i.e. direct object). –  Daniel Nov 7 '11 at 21:13
1  
Yes, though now-a-days that kind of phrasing is either idiomatic or obsolete. It is nonetheless grammatically valid. –  Daniel Nov 7 '11 at 21:23

I've always thought of the phrase being it is like a dream that has come true, whereupon that has is omitted to allow for the past participle come to be treated like an adjective.

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While "come" is indeed a past participle in "dream come true", it is not an ellipsis of "dream that has come true" -- such ellipsis would not be grammatically allowed -- but rather that of "dream that is come true". This archaic usage of "be" instead of "have" in the present perfect applies to certain verbs of motion such as come, go, rise, set, fall, arrive, depart, grow, etc., hence we have:

The sun is set. Our guests are gone. Babylon is fallen. Winter is arrived. The Lord is come.

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Can you please provide some evidence since yours is somewhat different from the accepted one? If you get it correct, I'll mark yours as accepted answer. –  Terry Li Mar 7 '12 at 17:10

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