"are become" v. "have become"

Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
I was unable to find any previous discussion of the difference between "I am become" (passive form) and "I have become" (present perfect form).

For me, the I am become form is more resonant and Biblical: one thinks of "I am become Death", and of Isaiah ("Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Jehovah, even Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation").

Is there a difference of meaning between the two, and is the passive form only a self-conscious archaism these days?
 
  • losilmer

    Senior Member
    I have also read "I was come here", instead of "I had come here". And this is a similar case. Could it be this an antiquated form of the auxiliary verb being "to be"? Maybe. Let's wait for more posts.

    As for the passive form, I think that today it is an archaism. To say "passive" is only a way of speaking, because "I am become Death" is not passive voice. Passive voice is a reverse form of transitive verbs. "I love my wife"~"My wife is loved by me". This reversement is not possible with the previous "I am become Death".
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hullo Mr.T:). I hadn't really thought of these as strictly passive forms before: without actually knowing for sure, I'd just assumed they were examples of English using be rather than have to create past tenses (as still applies with certain French verbs). In other words, what Losilmer said above.
    BUT: how one actually reads them is another matter.
    To avoid your particular example completely (because I can't quite get to grips with it just at the moment), for me there is a very real difference between:
    Your brother is come to see you
    and
    Your brother has come to see you.
    There's a greater sense of urgency or immediacy in the first than in the second: it's almost like Your brother has come to see you and (t)here he is waiting and he won't go away till he's seen you.
    Well, that's how I read them anyway.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We have had previous discussions on 'I have come' versus 'I am come', and I hope the passive/intransitive question is discussed in another thread rather than here.

    I was intrigued by the difference between 'They are become' and 'They have become'. I found a few cases in modern writing where the first form is used, like this, from the Daily Mash: "He is no longer Robert Peston, BBC business editor. His atoms are now woven into the very fabric of the universe. He is become pure news." which is much funnier than He has become pure news, in my view. Is that just biblical? Doesn't it suggest a more subtle form of transubstantiation than he has become?
     

    losilmer

    Senior Member
    I sense what ewie means.
    I am come here.= I am here and I will stay, after having come over.
    But, after accepting this, I wonder now if in ancient times, when "to be" was an auxiliary to "to come", people made also use of "to have" with that same verb "to come", or did they use only "to be".
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This subject has been discussed on WordReference before, but I couldn't find the thread. I suspect the WordReference system deletes threads after a period.

    It is also discussed in the on-line Oxford English Dictionary: meaning 14b of the verb be.

    In Thomas's examples, am become and is become are not passives: they are present perfects. They mean the same (or at least almost the same) as have become and has become; the register is different. The OED puts it this way: in intransitive verbs, forming perfect tenses, in which use it is now largely displaced by 'have' after the pattern of transitive verbs: 'be' being retained only with 'come', 'go', 'rise', 'set', 'fall', 'arrive', 'depart', 'grow', and the like, when we express the condition or state now attained, rather than the action of reaching it, as ‘the sun is set,’ ‘our guests are gone,’ ‘Babylon is fallen,’ ‘the children are all grown up.’

    Of these examples, only the children are grown up and our guests are gone sound common and current to me: Thomas's examples are archaic or play on the fact that they sound archaic or biblical.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]for me there is a very real difference between:
    Your brother is come to see you
    and
    Your brother has come to see you.
    There's a greater sense of urgency or immediacy in the first than in the second
    Yes, excellent point, Ewie, and a very wonderful use of that immediacy is made by Launcelot Andrewes in that famous sermon on the Nativity of 1622.
    It is not commended to stand gazing up to heaven too long; not on Christ Himself ascending, much less on His star. For they sat not still gazing on the star. Their vidimus begat venimus; their seeing made them come, come a great journey. Venimus is soon said, but a short word; but many a wide and weary step they made before they could come to say venimus; lo, here we are come; come, and at our journey's end.
    That use of rhythm at the end here we are come; come, and at our journey's end suggests both here we are, come and here, we are come. And for this reason, among others, the form is vital.

    Does we are become carry the same sort of message? Is it more immediate that we have become or does its overtones of whimsy defeat all that?
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Right, I've had more ciggies now so can put my mind to He is become.
    (Oh dear, we're all rather talking at cross-purposes here, but heyho!)
    Re 'The Transubstantiation of Mr.Robert Pestilence Peston'. Yes, I find is become much funnier than has become there: it deliberately and self-consciously apes (e.g.) The Bible for comic effect, giving the statement something of the air of An Eleventh Commandment. And, at the same time, yes, it suggests a greater degree of having-become-ness than plain old has become, I'd say.

    Teddy, I was curious to see that in your quote from the OED, those verbs which can still be conjugated with be rather than have pretty well match the ones in French (but that's another story). I've been trying to find a common factor to them, without success so far. More ciggies please.
     
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