How do you use the phrase 'come doing' properly?

On the one hand, 'come doing' means that someone comes for doing something. For example, "Why not come dancing tonight?". This sentence never means "someone comes as he/she is dancing". Lol.

On the other hand, 'come doing' can also mean that someone comes while doing something. For example, "She came crying and screaming". This sentence never means "she came for crying and screaming".

How do you use properly the different meanings of 'coming doing' form?

meta: I'm a non-native speaker of English.  

  • Answered in the '“I left smoking”, “I quit smoking”, “I gave up smoking”, “I stopped smoking” are these same?' thread. Jan 23, 2015 at 17:45

3 Answers 3


1 A stone came flying through the window.

In the combination of the verb to come + ing-form the ing-form describes the way. It it no indication of purpose.

2 In connection with outdoor and similar activites the ing-form is often used after to go/to come as in

A Why don't we go swimming.

B Come dancing this evening, Jane.

C yesterday we went sight-seeing.

(Longman English Grammar by Alexander, paragraph 16.43)

So you have to decide by context whether it is use 1 or use 2. But a stone doesn't come for a special activity.


Context is the key. Even English people can be confused. For example 'can you come singing' would normally be an invitation to a singing event but if you say 'can you come singing down the street' you then mean you want the person to sing as they approach you. You could also mean there is an event down the street where singing is required. In normal conversation where the English ear hears ambiguity in what is being said, the English thought process then tends to qualify what has been said with additional information. This happens a lot in English.


When teaching English (as a foreign language) I thought it caused less confusion to see the gerund ('-ing' form) as an activity noun when used like this. I like shopping, I go shopping etc.

In the other case you mention, "she came crying and screaming", the gerund is really more descriptive, it's being used like an adjective, as is clearer when you put another adjective in: "She came pale and crying"

  • 'I like shopping' and 'I go shopping' are very different structures. One has a direct object (the ing-form very close to if not exactly at the nouny end of the continuum) whereas the other is a phase (complex verb) structure. You can't ask 'What do you go?' 'They ended up fighting' is a third structure (verb + adjunct). The ing-form cannot be omitted. With 'She came into the room[,] crying and screaming', where the descriptor may be omitted, the ing-form/s is/are a free-modifier. See the previous question. // The term 'gerund' has different and conflicting definitions. Sadly. Jan 23, 2015 at 17:54
  • My comment is really meant to help the questioner in a practical way rather than to describe the exact technical definition of verb forms.
    – SuzieQ
    Jan 23, 2015 at 18:01
  • 1
    Hello, Suzie. 'English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.' There are other sites devoted to helping second-language learners, many of them. Jan 23, 2015 at 19:54
  • @Suzie Indeed, our sister site English Language Learners is specifically geared towards helping ESL learners—practical answers geared towards learners are much more likely to be appreciated and considered helpful there than they are here, where there is a greater focus on the intricate linguistic details and obscure nooks and crannies of the English language and how she is used. Jan 24, 2015 at 0:40

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