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What is the role and historical context for "come" in "Kingdom come"? I've heard this said before but it seems to stick out grammatically. Is it correct?

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2 Answers 2

It's an archaism: it isn't grammatical in 21st century English to say "(thy) kingdom come" but a few centuries ago it appears to have been more common. Functionally, it is often similar to using "let" as in "(Let) thy kingdom come".

From this phrase, "kingdom come" has effectively become re-analysed as a compound noun meaning something like 'a long time in the future' or 'the beginning of the next world', mainly in the phrase "till kingdom come".

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I’m reminded of Al Stewart’s lyrics in his song, “Lord Grenville”: And come the day you'll hear them saying / "They're throwing it all away" / Nothing more to say / Just throwing it all away –  tchrist Jun 2 '12 at 1:04
    
Actually, in the (Yorkshire) dialect of English that I grew up with, "come" is regularly used as a preposition in a similar way, e.g. "If you keep spending money at that rate, you'll be broke come March". –  Neil Coffey Jun 2 '12 at 1:45
    
That usage sounds perfectly normal to me, growing up in semi-rural southeastern Wisconsin. I hadn’t thought of it as a preposition, and in fact, the OED has that sort of thing under the verb, in sense 36a if you can access it. It says: “come (present) is used with a future date following as subject, as in French dix-huit ans vienne la Saint-Martin,—viennent les Pâques, ‘eighteen years old come Martinmas,—come Easter’; i.e. let Easter come, when Easter shall come. arch. and dial.” I guess I too have an archaic dialect. :) –  tchrist Jun 2 '12 at 1:53
    
Since it takes a subject, but does not agree with it, perhaps this is some sort of fossilized subjunctive use? The citations are only from 1420–1888, so it isn’t clear where and when it passed from full, productive use into a more fossilized construct, if indeed that is what occurred. –  tchrist Jun 2 '12 at 1:56
    
It's possibly a slightly borderline case, but I wonder if whoever compiled that OED entry confuses historical derivation with categorisation according to the current state of the language. –  Neil Coffey Jun 2 '12 at 1:56

It's a quote of the Lord's Prayer in the Bible: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ..." It is meant literally: "come" has the conventional sense of "arrive" or "get here". It is being used in the imperative, in this case in the from of a request. It's the old Jimmy-English so the word order and punctuation are different from conventional modern English usage. In more modern English it would be, "Please make your kingdom come", or "Come please, kingdom", or, "Please send your kingdom to us."

There is a rather obsolete idiom that goes something like "I may have to wait until kingdom come for this!", meaning until God's kingdom is established and history as we know it comes to an end, i.e. for a very long time. It's not good grammar, it would make more sense to say "until the kingdom comes". But that's how idioms are. Anyway, unless you're reading an old book, I doubt you'll see that, I haven't heard it in years.

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I actually just wanted to use it myself in the context of sued into kingdom come which is a rather common context in the south. It seems to be something you can be knocked or punched into. –  Evan Carroll Jun 1 '12 at 19:51
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N.B. It sounds a bit like an imperative to 21st century speakers, but originally it probably wasn't. –  Neil Coffey Jun 1 '12 at 19:54
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Saying it's "not good grammar" assumes that in "till kingdom come", "come" is a verb. But why assume that? If you say that "kingdom come" has been re-analysed as a noun phrase, then you just have a preposition with a noun phrase complement like any boring preposition followed by any other boring noun phrase. –  Neil Coffey Jun 1 '12 at 19:55
    
As @NeilCoffey indicates, it's not an imperative in the Lord's Prayer. It's actually the subjunctive, expressing an earnest desire. –  Andrew Leach Jun 1 '12 at 23:05
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What made the construction a subjunctive in Old English was that e.g. the form "sie" was "sie", not "sindon"/"beon". Nothing to do with fluffy notions such as 'command', or'intent' or wotnot...! –  Neil Coffey Jun 4 '12 at 15:08

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