come crashing down: to fall down with a lot of noise and force

The whole stack of cans came crashing down.

According to M-Webster's come crashing down is an idiom. Otherwise, how is such a pharse analysed?

Seconldy, is come down used in the idiom come crashing down? Merriam-webster's doesn't include "fall down" as a meaning in its entry of come down.

  • What is your question? The meaning of the phrase is clear in the context of your example. And it is used as a fairly obvious metaphor when referring to, say, the stock market or someone's mood. It is an "idiom" only in the sense that it's fairly common and is often metaphorized. "Come down" has a somewhat different meaning, and probably derives from someone being "brought down off a pedestal" or some such.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 12:01
  • This is a construction that's much broader than one idiom. Come down is already a phrasal verb (and links with go down, get down, bring down), and phrasal verbs are by definition idioms. Add the participle and you get a very common way to express an event - use a generic verb and a detailed participle. It's more common in some languages than others -- it's very common in Spanish -- but English uses it in narratives a lot. Take a look at the way the Harry Potter books describe events. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 15:33

3 Answers 3


Longman gives the appropriate sense of what it labels the phrasal verb usage here:

come down phrasal verb


3 to fall to the ground

  • A lot of trees came down in the storm.
  • We were still out in the fields when the rain started coming down.

I'd say that there is enough cohesion between 'come' and 'down' here to justify its being considered a multi-word verb:

  • The trees came down in the storm.
  • The trees fell [to the ground] in the storm.

In spite of the cohesion, it is possible to insert ing-forms between 'come' and 'down' to describe the manner and/or degree of the falling:

  • The cans came crashing down.
  • Jack and Jill came tumbling down.
  • The rain came bucketing down.
  • The ash keys came spiralling down.

Whether or not one considers come V-ing down as cohesive enough to also be considered multi-word verbs (of a different class) is open to debate. Certainly

  • The ash keys spiralled to the ground (etc)

is available for

  • The ash keys came spiralling down [to the ground].

The grammar is fairly idiosyncratic ('went V-ing up' is unusual), but these expressions are idiomatic (commonly used and accepted), so they arguably qualify as idioms.

One famous example of this usage, which has doubtless popularised it, is from the old spiritual/hymn:

Joshua fought[/fit] the battle of Jericho ... Jericho ... Jericho;

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho

And the walls came tumbling down.

  • what about he went haring past?
    – GJC
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 13:20
  • Yes, and I think that's pretty productive (racing / dashing / hurtling / bowling / flying). But not totally (??crawling / ??walking / ??running / *bouncing) (with no complement, like past the school). It's idiosyncratic, with probably all prepositions-or-are-they. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 14:08
  • to which one does "(with no complement, like past the school)." apply? Secondly , prepositions-or-are-they?
    – GJC
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 14:40
  • Adding a complement makes them all sound more natural. 'John came walking past' is less natural-sounding than 'John came walking past the bandstand'. 'John came walking by' works better. // The semi-traditional view is that prepositiony things in multi-word verbs like 'He hung up' / 'He went on for ages' / 'He's passed away' / 'She's passed out' ... are best called '[verbal] particles'. The CGEL stance is that they should all be classed as prepositions, intransitive where there is no complement. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 17:14

I guess come crashing down can be used in another context to give a slightly different meaning. Like when you say a drug smuggling scheme "came crashing down", you are saying that 1. It was large and extensive 2. It was destroyed very quickly, very suddenly, and had a great impact, like how the plans to build a multi-billion dollar fusion reactor "came crashing down" when they realised they were unable to build it.

It can literally fall down, or more metaphorically mean that it had a great impact when it was suddenly destroyed/unable to stand.


"The whole stack of cans came crashing down." According to M-Webster's come crashing down is an idiom.

It is not an idiom. It is perfectly understandable as it is. It is an ordinary use. "came crashing down" seems to be "verb - participle - adverb," with the {participle adverb} being the complement of "came."

Otherwise, how is such a phrase analysed?

The OED describes it thus:

Come (v.) 4 b. Followed by a present participle or gerund indicating a concomitant action or activity (often expressing the method or manner of movement).


1916 H. L. Wilson Somewhere in Red Gap iii. 113 So I yelled out back to an old hick of a gardener..and he comes running.

1921 S. Colvin Memories & Notes xvii. 295 The whole weight of the Atlantic comes crashing against the granite juts and buttresses.

2007 Atlantic Monthly Dec. 84/2 Another of our members..came clutching a bag full of peacock-blue, pea-sized beans.

  • No; there's a difference between the 'go fishing / come shopping' phase-structure V + ing-form, and other V + ing-form constructions – and the come & ing-form & down construction. The particle is mandatory in the 'come crashing / tumbling / hurtling spiralling / bucketing down', but not in the verbs-in-phase structure (He'll come shopping). 'Come crashing against' is a transitive analogue of 'come V-ing down'. 'Come clutching a bag of goodies' is, of course, come + past-participial clause. A totally different construction. // An idiom may be an odd/rarish grammatical construct. Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 15:38
  • @Edwin Ashworth: "The particle is mandatory in the 'come crashing / tumbling / hurtling spiralling / bucketing down', I would be interested to see authority for that statement. The participle is an adverb or part of an adverbial phrase and may be omitted or replaced: "The whole weight of the Atlantic comes powerfully against the granite juts." / The whole weight of the Atlantic comes against the granite juts.--"[He] came {clutching a bag of beans} - adverbial complement or free modifier.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 18:48
  • He came crashing? She came spiralling? There can be other licensing particles, such as 'into' [the room], but the come + Ving. formula doesn't work for these verbs. Note that 'She came shopping.' is a different ('look-alike') construction. V + ing-form constructions have been dealt with in previous threads. Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 20:17
  • You seem to have said that the participle is mandatory, and then given the example of the participle being wrong. "He came crashing? She came spiralling?" I'm a little confused.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 20:46
  • It needs to be 'He came crashing down.': 'down' (or perhaps 'in') is necessary. 'He came crashing.' is unacceptable. This is not the 'go shopping' / 'start walking' phase structure described (along with various other V + -ing form constructions) here. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 15:34

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