There are such lines in the song "Eyes of the World" ("Rainbow", a British rock band):

Evil moves, evil ways With his back to the wall

and later

Evil takes, evil kills With no shame or concern

Can "Evil" be a subject in all these cases with predicates "moves", "ways", "takes" and "kills"? In all online dictionaries "way" is a noun, but if it is a noun, "evil ways with his back to the wall" looks very weird. Can "way" be used as a verb here?

Thank you for your answers.

  • 6
    Song lyrics are not always grammatical. But I cannot read ways as a verb, and therefore I read moves as a noun as well and evil as an adjective in that line. In the second line, I read evil as a noun and the two as verbs - a formal paralellism without a grammatical one : effectively a zeugma. Another possibility is that ways is a mishearing for something else.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 10, 2020 at 9:35
  • Thank you so much for your answer. But could you clarify, why "his" is used in this case ("with his back to the wall")? Apr 10, 2020 at 10:10
  • Dunno. Could refer to somebody yet to be talked about (cataphora). Why would Evil have his back to the wall?
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 10, 2020 at 10:12
  • Note the capital letters starting 'Evil' and 'With'. That means they are on separate lines. It is a poetry/song lyric convention to start a new line with a capital letter. Evil moves, evil ways (new line) Without seeing at all. The earlier line is to be considered by itself (as a comment). Apr 10, 2020 at 11:24
  • Evil probably has his back to the wall to provide a rhyme for "Without seeing at all" two lines later. Apr 10, 2020 at 13:25

3 Answers 3


but if it is a noun, "evil ways with his back to the wall" looks very weird.

It looks weird, but it isn't.

Way / Ways (noun)


III. A course of action or behaviour; a means, a manner, a method.

16.a. A path or course of life; a person's activities and fortunes in life, esp. when considered from an ethical or spiritual point of view.

b. In plural. A person's habitual conduct viewed with regard to its morality.

2006 Sight & Sound Sept. 48/1 The message is: bullies must learn the errors of their ways by enduring a taste of their own medicine.

Move/ moves is also a noun = movement; a premeditated action; a gambit.

2007 The Doctor Who Transcripts - The Infinite Quest DOCTOR: Ah, ah, ah. Me first. (sotto) I thought Swabb would have made his move by now.


Evil moves, evil ways With his back to the wall

I would interpret that to be saying "Evil moves in evil ways with his back to the wall". "Ways" is not being used as a verb. It's describing the way evil moves. (And "Evil" is being "personified" here, hence the use of "his".)


I don't think evil in this sentence is an adjective ''evil ways With his back to the wall'' Way (even tough it's apparently rare) has a verb version. 'Evil ways with his back to the wall ' you can consider this like '' Evil leans his back to the wall. ''

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