Consider the following examples:

I have noticed that a lot of people are switching to Unity.
I have come to notice that a lot of people are switching to Unity.


The Saddam I have come to know
The Saddam I have known


"I have come to understand" vs. "I have understood"
"I have come to decide" vs. "I have decided"

My questions are:

  1. How is the meaning different in the above examples?
  2. I do not think it's possible to use certain verbs like "run" after "I have come to". So what sort of verbs can be used in this context?
  • From the OALD oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com 13 [transitive] come to do something to reach a point where you realize, understand or believe something: In time she came to love him. She had come to see the problem in a new light. I've come to expect this kind of behaviour from him.
    – Alex B.
    Jun 8, 2012 at 18:35

3 Answers 3


"I have come to notice [something]"

...normally emphasises the progressive nature of the action (i.e. - it didn't happen instantaneously). Per JeffSahol's comment below, in some circumstances it may imply the action was overdue (should have happened earlier), rather than that it actually took place over an extended period.

Although it's present tense, people often use "I notice" interchangeably with "I have noticed" (in respect of something recently noticed which you're now mentioning).

Thus, for example, "I came to realise Reagan was a good president", implies you only gradually realised this. Without the verb to come, there's no such implication...

"At that moment, I realised Reagan was a good president"

"I realised Reagan was a good president after studying him for many years"

  • 1
    Not necessarily progressive, though: "I came to realize that boxing was not for me when my nose was broken."
    – JeffSahol
    Jun 8, 2012 at 16:42
  • @JeffSahol: Good point. I think that would be a fairly unusual usage (you'd usually say "I realised..."), but it's certainly not inherently invalid. I think using came there carries the implication that the realisation was overdue/a long time coming - pretty much the equivalent of "I finally came to realise". I think it would be at least "odd" to say, for example, "Having been violently sick the first time I tried sushi, I came to realise that eating raw fish wasn't good for me". Jun 8, 2012 at 17:21
  • 1
    Yes, I think you are right about the implication. It is actually a somewhat ironic usage of the phrase, actually.
    – JeffSahol
    Jun 8, 2012 at 17:36
  • @JeffSahol: Exactly - in your example there's there's both the implication that I should have realised earlier that boxing wasn't for me, and possibly that other people had already realised it. That's to say, it's an ironic acknowledgement of having "realised" something that would generally be considered so obvious it hardly justifies using the word "realise" in the first place. Jun 8, 2012 at 18:38

Come to Vinf is a common Inchoative construction.

Come to be, in fact, is usually shortened to simply become, and the troublesome word get means both come to be and come to have. The 4 sentences below all mean the same thing.

  • He came to distrust what they told him.
  • He came to be distrustful of what they told him.
  • He became distrustful of what they told him.
  • He got distrustful of what they told him.

The difference between a simple Perfect construction (1) and a Perfect inchoative (2)

  1. She has recognized the symptoms in him.
  2. She has come to recognize the symptoms in him.

is that in (1) - a type 3 Stative/Resultative Perfect - it's the resultant state, his possession of symptoms, that is presently relevant.

Whereas in (2) - a type 1 Universal Perfect - because it's inchoative, it's the continuing (and therefore gradual) change of resulting state that's presently relevant.

  • (2) could also simply mean that he just realized recognizing the symptoms.
    – Noah
    Jun 8, 2012 at 23:04
  • Yup. It's all inferential, depending on the story we're telling ourselves to make sense of it. It's not an intrinsic part of the construction, just a common conclusion. Jun 8, 2012 at 23:21
  • 1
    It's interesting that got can behave in the same way. But I also find it interesting that it doesn't work the same in, for example, "She has got to recognize the symptoms in him." Jun 9, 2012 at 2:02
  • That's because get is also the inchoative of have, and can therefore mean come to have, as well as come to be. Jun 9, 2012 at 4:53

"Come to" in these contexts is not a helper verb that changes the tense or mood of the verb that follows. It means to "reach or enter a state, relation, condition, use, or position". The verb that follows, in the infinitive, specifies what that state/relation/etc. is.

So, to answer your questions:

  1. When you say "I have come to X", it means that you have changed your mind, or your condition has changed, or something else is different that compels you to, or at least suggests that you, X.

  2. I don't think there is any rule about what verbs could follow. "I have come to run" does not make much sense by itself, at least in the sense of "come" we are talking about right now, but there are sentences where it could work.

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