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Why is it correct to say "it later came to pass" instead of "it came to pass later"? What is the rule for this placement?

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There is no particular ironclad rule that I can think of, but the first sounds immeasurably better to my ear.

  1. It later came to pass that. . . .
  2. It came later to pass that. . . .
  3. It came to pass later that. . . .
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As far as measure goes, #1 is iambic, #3 is amphibrachic, #2 is not anything in particular I know of. – StoneyB Sep 29 '12 at 0:25
Also: Later it came to pass that ... – Robusto Sep 29 '12 at 1:54

Both are perfectly grammatical.

To me the second construction is in general hugely more idiomatic English (It happened later). But the first form has a slightly literary or archaic feel, and so matches better with the literary phrase came to pass.

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Neither is necessarily incorrect; I also can't imagine that one is necessarily worse, at least without knowing the context.

The semantic distinction between the two (putting aside the different poetic properties that StoneyB mentions) is a subtle one of emphasis.

  • It later came to pass... This phrase is somewhat of an idiom in English, a familiar phrase. It recalls a story-telling tone, and expresses a segue as from one time period to another.
  • It came to pass later... Here the later does (granted) feel a bit out of place, and as such the phrase seems to emphasize the later condition of whatever it is, rather than it itself.
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