… But their main business is in parts and refurbishing, and the old man, Deforges, doesn’t like to sell a used piano to someone who hasn’t come recommended. He says it’s more trouble than it’s worth and he’s got plenty of customers for the pianos that come his way. (The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart)

I think the rough meanings would be the same if the sentence used “who hasn’t been recommended” instead of “who hasn’t come recommended,” but what’s the difference between them?


There's no real difference in meaning - it's largely style.

Having said that, to come recommended is at the very least "dated". Here's a chart showing how usage has fallen off since the first half of C19. Most people today would say "...someone who hasn’t been recommended." It's also more "gentrified" (perhaps just because dated expressions often seem more refined), so it better suits OP's context of personal recommendation within "genteel" society.

Note that recommended has two distinct meanings, as covered by this earlier question. In OP's context, if the customer were to be recommended, that could either mean that he was advised go to Deforges because that was thought to be the best place to buy a piano, or that the customer was thought to be good enough for Deforges to deal with. There is no such ambiguity if the customer comes recommended - it's always the latter meaning.

  • 1
    I don't know what, exactly, but could you provide some sort of reference? Your conclusion is at odds with @jbr's, and both of them make sense to me.
    – zpletan
    Apr 19 '12 at 4:24
  • @zpletan: Added link showing fall-off in usage (come is "dated"). pbr's answer seems to imply it's the shop that's "recommended" (for either verb), but definitely in your example it's the customer who "comes recommended" (i.e. - is a suitable person for Deforges to be doing business with). That is (was?!) always the case with "come", but there's ambiguity with "to be recommended". Apr 19 '12 at 20:55

The main difference, grammatically, is that "be recommended" should usually be followed by some sort of descriptive clause stating who is doing the recommending ("he was recommended [to me] by my friend"), whereas "come recommended" can stand alone (as in your example, where, if you used "was recommended" instead, something would be missing).

I also agree with FumbleFingers' point about it being more outdated.


The primary difference between "someone who hasn’t come recommended" and "someone who hasn’t been recommended" is the verb.

I'm not trying to be trite or witty here - quite the opposite, I'm trying to be precise.

When someone comes to Deforges piano shop, they either come because they were recommended, or they walk in not knowing whether it's a good place to buy a piano or not.

Someone who has been recommended might need to be contacted to see if they wanted to buy a piano right away, given directions to the shop, or otherwise not actually be walking through the door of the shop having been guided there via a recommendation.

  • So you're saying that been recommended means that the person's name has been given to Deforges', while come recommended means that Deforges' name has been given to the customer?
    – zpletan
    Apr 19 '12 at 3:57
  • Nope. You've reduced it to 2 cases, where there are 4. They've come into the store, because they were recommend to come there - as opposed to someone who was not recommended to come into the store. Both of those are very different than the cases where someone gives a buyer Deforge's name and address (Deforges has been recommended) or the converse (a buyer has been recommended to Deforges).
    – pbr
    Apr 19 '12 at 4:07
  • It's about the "coming" and the "going" from the store - the act of showing up, as opposed to the being identified. Someone who comes recommended to my team has walked in the door and handed me a resume, stating, "Joe sent me - he says you'll love me". Someone who has been recommended to my team (by Joe) needs to be contacted about whether they can come to visit.
    – pbr
    Apr 19 '12 at 4:09
  • That last comment I would probably put in your answer, as it greatly clarifies what you're saying.
    – zpletan
    Apr 19 '12 at 4:21
  • 1
    I'm sorry, but I think you've got something the round way wrong here. You seem to think that "someone who has been recommended" is the person to whom something or someone has been recommended, but in fact it is the person who has been recommended (in this case to the piano shop owner). The point of the OP's excerpt is that the shop owner doesn't want to sell a piano to someone who hasn't been recommended to him, i.e. he doesn't want to sell to someone who comes without an endorsement. Apr 19 '12 at 4:52

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