come/go+do structure


come/go+do structure is frequently used in both oral and written English, and in both formal and informal occasions. For example,

1) Even as she made her way over to come talk to me, there was one more picture to be taken; one more person to hug. (from ABC news 2009-3-19.)

2) Go fulfill that dream. (from a textbook )
3) Somehow, I managed to pick up the telephone and call my mom in the middle of the night, telling her to come get me.  (from a textbook )

How to understand and explain this linguistic phenomenon from both theoretical and practical perspective? Thank you!


asked May 07 '11 at 06:56 mary New member

2 answers




The best explanation I can give for this construction is that, like many forms in language, it has evolved from a longer, more precise form to the shorter, less clear form.  For native speakers of English, the meanings of the 'come/go +do' construction are taken for granted.  Only when working with learners of English does it become clear how confusing some forms actually are.  So, let me do my best to explain what I think is happening with the 'come/go + do' form.


There are two different meanings among the three examples you have given.  1 and 3 can be put into the first category and 2 can be put in the second.


The first category is a shortened form from "to come and do something".  Originally, I believe it probably was used to signify two actions, 'to come' and 'to do'.  Over time, however, the meaning changed and, with it, the construction.  We no longer need to use 'and' to have the meaning understood.  However, if you say "she made her way over to come and talk to me" it is still considered perfectly correct.


So, you can explain the construction "to come talk to me" (seen as one action) as a shortened form of the longer and clearer "to come and talk to me" (two actions seen as one).  Similarly, "to come get me" is a shortened form of "to come and get me".  Again, over time the first construction has come to signify one action, while the longer version clearly uses two actions that have come to be seen as one action.  


Originally, I believe the longer version meant "to come and then to get" or "to come and then to talk".  Over time these two actions have morphed into one percieved action.  As proof, you can easily leave out the 'to come' or 'to go' and the meaning is still perfectly clear ("She made her way over to talk to me," means exactly the same thing as "She made her way over to come talk to me.").


The second category is a shortened form of what were previously two commands. So, in the example you gave "Go" and "fulfill  that dream" would have originally been written as two commands -- "Go! Fulfill that dream!"  We still often write this way because it is clearer, but it is no longer necessary because, as the construction was used more often, the formatting became briefer.  Similar to the first category, this construction has morphed from what orginally meant two commands ('go' and 'fulfill') to a phrase which, in practice, only means one (fulfill, with 'go' adding emphasis).


I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any questions.



link comment answered May 10 '11 at 16:20 Kimberly Expert


Thank you very much for your help! Your answer is both informative and informing. Is it safe to say that "come" and "go" in both categories have been grammaticallized?

Thank you!


link comment answered May 12 '11 at 06:29 mary New member

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