When inquiring after the immediate origin of a thing (i.e., where I purchased this gallon of milk), my wife will frequently say, "Where does it come from?". This always sounds odd to me—I'd say "Where did it come from?".

My impression is that the continuous "does" implies the coming from is somehow an essential part of the thing's essence—as opposed to an incidental fact about where I got it. After all, it doesn't sound weird to ask "Where does he come from?" in relation to a person's nationality. By extension, if I were to ask someone where a gallon of milk "comes from", I'd expect an answer like "Ohio dairy cows"—not "Kroger". But I can't articulate the grammatical terms much better than that.

Her construction isn't particularly wrong, is it? Just odd? She comes from an Amish Mennonite background, and I'm sure that's where this habit originates.

How would I grammatically describe what is going on when she says "Where does it come from?"

2 Answers 2


For a specific object, use past tense because we are talking about its history, but for something representative of a class (like milk in general) use the present tense since the same answer applies to all instances. The first is about an object having arrived from somewhere else, the second is about the origins of that thing in general. So, that bottle of milk came from the supermarket, but milk in general comes from cows or similar arrangements thereto.


Women are always right Sir! On a serious note, she is on the dot. According to me "where does" is correct since the milk is physically existing. Drink it fully and speak to her again. She would probably ask: "Where did it come from?'' I request for a feedback please.

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    I think if he drank an entire gallon of milk right after buying it and then spoke to his wife she'd have a few more things to say than "Where did it come from?". Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 16:16

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