I am currently playing the game Max Payne 3 and I came across an interesting formulation:

I hope Fabiana will not be served to the fishes come feeding time.

Is this normal in American English?


This usage is not mentioned (at least as prepositional) in many of the online dictionaries. However, Google Dictionary includes it:

come preposition [informal]

  1. when a specified time is reached or event happens. "I don't think that they'll be far away from honors come the new season"

It almost certainly derives from the common verb, with deletion (perhaps of 'when') and re-ordering. As this dictionary says, it wouldn't be used in a very formal register, though I wouldn't restrict it to informal ones. It does have a 'chatty' feel about it to my British ears.

|improve this answer|||||

Well, it is not particularly common but yes, it is correct. Specifically, this is the meaning 2c(2) from the online Merriam-Webster:

c (2) : take place —used in the subjunctive with inverted subject and verb to express the particular time or occasion <come spring the days will be longer>

It is not often used in day-to-day speech but you can still find it as you saw.

|improve this answer|||||
  • I'm not sure you can call it the subjunctive anymore. It's an idiom which originated in the subjunctive use, but this usage of the subjunctive has died in English, and I believe the meaning of the idiom has drifted away from the original meaning of the subjunctive. – Peter Shor Oct 3 '14 at 12:21
  • @PeterShor I'm not sure either but that's what the MW states. I'm just quoting it. – terdon Oct 3 '14 at 12:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.