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Despite having written in English for 35 years, I was surprised today to be told that the correct phrase is "With freedom come choices" because if you reverse the sentence, "with freedom choices comes" doesn't scan.

I can sort of squint and see the rationale here, but what's the rule? "With freedom come choices" scans wrong, but when I try some mental parallels...

"With happiness comes smiles" "With marriage comes a horse and carriage" "With hunger comes a rumbly tummy"

they all scan correctly, but also scan in reverse. ("With happiness, smiles come", etc.)

So a question in two parts: is "With freedom comes choices" actually incorrect; and what is it about this particular phrase that makes it so weird?

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    Whoever told you that you have to choose your sentence based on how they sound when reversed doesn't know what they're talking about! Choose a sentence because it sounds grammatical, not because a somewhat related sentence does or does not sound grammatical. – curiousdannii Oct 26 '14 at 2:26
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    With freedom come choices = Choices come with freedom. Plain and simple. English does retain a remnant of analytic structure. – Blessed Geek Oct 26 '14 at 3:57
  • @Blessed Whats that do with the Q? – Kris Oct 26 '14 at 8:24
  • +Kris, don't unerstand your question. – Blessed Geek Oct 26 '14 at 8:48
  • @BlessedGeek: It ain't "unerstand," but "unnerstand" (just pulling your leg!). Don – rhetorician Oct 26 '14 at 10:07
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It is not how any of this dialog has gone.

Your statement "With freedom come choices" when "reversed" can be parallel-scanned (a take on your usage of "scan") not as "With choices come freedom", but as "With freedom, choices come." I think it can be better understood, if we "reverse" "With a whole chicken comes legs" to "With legs come a whole chicken" and compare against "With a whole chicken, legs come" -- that illustrates the point more clearly.

English is not a programming construct -- the only rule which always applies it that no rules always apply.

So, then, why do we hear of such "rules"? The answer is that whoever is telling us such rules does not fully understand that they are guides to help you ensure your writing is comprehensible or done well.

Statements which start with a preposition ("with", in this case) are not always the best fit, though sometimes they are. For example, "With great power comes great responsibility" is a well-known statement in English coming from the Sci-Fi realm.

If, however, someone were to say to me, "With freedom come choices," I would ask, "which choices?" If they said, on the other hand, "Freedom gives you the privilege of choice," I would know exactly what they were saying.

The question we as writers should ask ourselves is, "Does my statement convey what I have intended?" The answer should define our writing.

If you're looking for a mathematical formula, your writing will sound like a mathematical formula. As a professor in my mathematics classes once stated, "there is no substitute for professional judgement." Subsequently, write to communicate your ideas/intentions/etc and then have others review your writing to ensure you have fulfilled your goal(s).

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    You got it right. – Kris Oct 26 '14 at 8:31
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    Just that I think it's much simpler really. Syntax refects the underlying semantic, so it's grammatical all right. – Kris Oct 26 '14 at 8:36
  • @Kris True. I tend to ramble, too. On re-reading, my second sentence in paragraph 2 needs some reworking for clarity. Gotta run now, though, so I'll clean that up tonight when I get back. – Sylas Seabrook Oct 26 '14 at 16:16
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This is a case of subject-verb agreement. The only difference is that your subjects are in the ends of the sentences, rather than the beginnings where you'd expect to find them. In "With freedom come choices," the subject is "choices." Since the subject is plural, use "come" instead of "comes." If it helps to change the word order, think of it as, "Choices come with freedom." Think of the prepositional phrase, "with freedom," as being isolated from the rest of the sentence. Try omitting it entirely so that the plurality of "freedom" doesn't confuse you. Choices are coming, not freedom, so the word "choices" determines the verb form. The rule is that, regardless of what's in your prepositional phrases, you should use "come" for plural subjects ("horse and carriage," "smiles") and "comes" for singular subjects ("tummy").

  • It's very puzzling when people don't explain their downvote. Did you get downvoted because the language of your last sentence seems to set a generic rule for everything else with a prepositional phrase, even if that prepositional phrase is part of the subject? Maybe you should clean it up a lil bit and avoid making rules with an overly broad scope. – Blessed Geek Oct 27 '14 at 0:53
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It depends on the idea you intend to convey. "With freedom come choices" implies that you are talking about the individual choices rather than the more abstract idea of "choice" in general.

For example, "with freedom comes responsibility" and "with freedom comes choice" they are both referring to the abstract idea of choice or responsibility.

Whereas, "with freedom come responsibilities" and "with freedom come choices" these might be more appropriate if you are going to specifically address what those responsibilities or choices are. Here you are referring to the specific choices that follow going of freedom rather than speaking of "choice" and "freedom" in abstract terms.

A little more context is required to determine which usage would be correct for you. There is not universal absolute regarding the correct usage because every situation is different. I would recommend however to use "come choices" only if you are planning on further expanding about what those choices are within a specific situation. For example, "with freedom come choices, the job I love or the job that pays" vs "with freedom comes choice, freedom of choice is inseparable from freedom itself." In one example, it is referring to a specific choice (a concrete action) rather than the idea of choice (an abstract idea). Action vs philosophy.

Hope this helps.

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The object of "come" determines whether it is "come" or "comes". Take something more common. You buy a burger. When you do, fries are included. Here are two sentences that express this:

The burger comes with fries.
Fries come with the burger.

In each case, the item associated with "come" is clear. However, you can rearrange either sentence into the same form and make it ambiguous:

With the burger comes fries. (from 1st sentence)
With the burger come fries. (from 2nd sentence)

This construction can be a replacement for either original sentence. The use of "come" vs. "comes" depends on which sentence you're rearranging; what you intend as the object associated with "come". Both versions are correct.

Apply this to the sentence in the question:

With freedom comes choices.

This means the same as "Freedom comes with choices."

With freedom come choices.

This means the same as "Choices come with freedom."

Either version can be correct.

-1

This has to do with the plurality of 'choices.' The 'comes' form of to come is only correct in the third person singular (he/she/it). as choices id plural, 'come' is the correct word. Regarding your other examples:

  1. This is incorrect. Smiles is plural, so it should be "With happiness come smiles."
  2. This is correct, as the 'horse and carriage' is counted as one object for the purposes of the sentence.
  3. This is incorrect. See 1.

The weirdness in this statement is largely due to nobody thinking much about verb conjugation in their own language. I think.

Verified here.

  • Did you get downvoted because you said horse and carriage is considered a singular item? Mary and Joan is eating? The cat and the dog is fighting? – Blessed Geek Oct 26 '14 at 4:00
  • so far as I can tell it is. I believe it has even been hyphenated as such. I would appreciate some feedback on what I got wrong though. – buzzy613 Oct 27 '14 at 0:32
  • In markdown formatting, you need to have a blank line before a list. I edited your answer to add the blank line. – Blessed Geek Oct 27 '14 at 0:42
  • Your item 2 needs to be deleted/corrected. – Blessed Geek Oct 27 '14 at 0:43
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    What's wrong with it? I maintain that a horse and carriage is a single object. – buzzy613 Oct 27 '14 at 12:48

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