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Or is "fled" an adjective here?


Some automated process is saying to me: "Your question has been identified as a possible duplicate of another question. If the answers there do not address your problem, please edit to explain in detail the parts of your question that are unique."

I'm to answer to the charge that my question is the same as this question: "Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”? 6 answers"

To this charge I say: I am very aware that "is become" is an archaic form os "has become". That is not my question.


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  • I +1ed you , but please provide a little research. – Cascabel Jun 7 at 1:35
  • @Cascabel Apologies. I've tried reading the wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_(grammar) and I'm pretty sure I understand the construction in sentences like Oppenheimer's "Now, I am become death" and "So great was his pride become" or simply "I am come" but I just can't figure it out in this case. – Jeremy Jun 7 at 1:39
  • The pie was eaten. – Hot Licks Jun 7 at 1:39
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    I just parse it as an adjective - same syntax and grammar as was gone. – Minty Jun 7 at 2:11
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    Possible duplicate of Is it acceptable to use "is become" instead of "has become"?, where the 'be-perfect' is discussed. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 28 at 16:24
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It is most likely a perfect aspect marker.

First, perfect tense using to be as the auxiliary verb sounds archaic in modern English, but Tolkien, as a scholar of early literature, would have known that early modern English still formed the perfect tense using to be with some intransitive verbs like to flee. The public OED blog explains:

The perfect of intransitive verbs, especially verbs of motion, continued (as in Middle English) to be frequently formed with to be rather than to have. Shakespeare normally uses to be with creep, enter, flee, go, meet, retire, ride, and run.

This usage appears in the final stanza of The Angel by William Blake:

Soon my Angel came again;

I was armed, he came in vain;

For the time of youth was fled,

And grey hairs were on my head.

Here is the tense/aspect broken down:

  • the time of youth fled (simple past)

  • the time of youth has fled (present perfect)

  • the time of youth is fled (archaic present perfect)

  • the time of youth had fled (past perfect)

  • the time of youth was fled (archaic past perfect)

The perfect aspect combined with the past tense signals that the time fled some time ago. Similarly, Luthien had fled.


The other interpretation (fled as a past participle serving as an adjective complement to Luthien) is possible, but unnecessary; Tolkien uses perfect aspect with to be in situations where the main verb wouldn't be mistaken for a participle. For example:

... all that fled his onset fled in amaze, thinking that Orome himself was come (Silmarillion)

Come in this form fits the same archaic form - an intransitive verb of movement - as shown in the King James Bible, Mark 15:42:

And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

Modern speakers would use had come, as the English Standard Version of the same verse shows:

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

So, similarly, if Tolkien had written in a more modern register, he might have written:

Orome himself had come.

and

Luthien had fled.

  • Thanks so much for this answer @taliesinmerlin! It’s perfect! – Jeremy Jun 29 at 22:21
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Verbs expressing a change of state, location, position, etc., formerly took the auxiliary to be in the perfect tense, rather than to have. The King James Bible and Shakespeare are full of examples, such as "I am come", "Babylon is fallen", etc. In Modern English, most of those verbs in the perfect tense have become confused with adjectives or else given the auxiliary to have, but German & Dutch (and probably some others) still use the equivalents of to be: "Ich bin gekommen", "Babylon is gevallen". Tolkien uses that archaic form because he worships the past.

  • I don't think that speculating about Tolkien's reason for using this form actually adds to the answer. – user888379 Jun 28 at 18:03
  • Consider me chidden. – J. D. Crutchfield Jun 30 at 18:24

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