Would it be grammatically correct to say 'The document, come back to haunt us, was causing a lot of trouble'.

I am familiar with this phrase but I recently encountered it used in a way similar to this which struck me as awkward, if not incorrect (for anyone interested, the original phrase was by Hunter S. Thomson and read 'Bobby Kennedy, come back to haunt us in the midst of...')

To me, it sounds necessary to add 'The document, having come back to haunt us...' or to say 'The document, coming back to haunt us...' - perfect participle and participle phrases respectively.

I notice also, if substituting a similar word, 'arise', it sounds fine - at least to me - to say 'the document, arisen to haunt us, was causing a lot of trouble. - Perhaps the original phrase just sounds uncomfortable to me because, if spoken too quickly, it could be heard as 'The document come back to haunt us' - the common and jarring grammar of either using the incorrect use of the Present Perfect tense for 'come' - with the omission of the auxiliary verb 'has' - or the incorrect use of the Simple Past with an incorrect conjugation (come instead of came). Whereas using 'coming' or 'having come' precludes any ambiguity.

Additionally, it also sounds correct to say 'The document, brought back to haunt us,...'; however, I didn't know if this was really comparable, since the phrase seems to be a passive participle phrase - but with the omission of 'having been' (i.e. 'the document, (having been) brought back to haunt us,...'). Perhaps my assumption here is incorrect though...

Could anyone offer an explanation of what is strictly correct in the original phrase?

  • To 'come back to haunt' someone is a set phrase, so it wouldn't be appropriate to use a different verb. In your examples the phrase is understood to mean '[who had] or [which had] come back...' – Kate Bunting Jan 3 '18 at 16:23
  • "Would it be grammatically correct to say 'The document, come back to haunt us, was causing a lot of trouble'." Yes. // Would some teachers knock off a mark for lack of idiomaticity? Other than where an archaic etc style is being fostered, I trust so. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 4 '18 at 0:27
  • Perhaps it's interpreted to mean ' '[who had] or [which had] come back...', but, thinking about it further, could the phrase not be correct in its own right - with 'come''s acting as an adjectival past participle in the active voice. I suppose it is rarer for past participles to be in the active voice but now I think about it there are some examples (e.g. fallen leaves). By this logic, it would also be appropriate to use a different verb, since 'arisen' for example again acts as an adjectival PP in the active voice. Using an adjectival PP in passive is more natural though ('brought back to...' – Nic Jan 4 '18 at 2:54

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.