He's a creature come straight out of a nightmare [omission of relative pronoun]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by pouyou, Jul 31, 2017.

  1. pouyou Member


    I stumbled upon this sentence : “He's a creature come straight out of a nightmare.” It seems wrong to me as it goes against one rule I have been taught – subject relative pronouns must not be omitted (but I am not a native speaker). However, oddly enough, I have the impression I had heard this sort of sentence before I read it.

    Is it a case of omission of subject relative pronoun : “he’s a creature that/who has come out of a nightmare.”

    If yes, why is it possible to omit the subject relative ponoun? Is it informal English or a mistake?

    If not, it it some sort of set phrase?

    Thanks in advance
  2. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member


    I think the verb "to come" is a bit of an exception, because it used to take the auxiliary "be" in old English ("The time is come"). Hence, when you say "It's a dream come true" or "It's a creature come straight out of a nightmare", you're using the past participle "come" as an adjective, just as you might say "It's a creature [that is] made of flesh" or "It's a book [that was] written with a lot of authenticity".

    You can omit the relative pronoun when the verb "to be" is implied, which is the case with the verb "to come" in your sentence. However, you wouldn't typically say "He is the man __ came to my house" :cross: You'd need a relative pronoun there.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  3. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    English - England

  4. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    “He's a creature come straight out of a nightmare.”"
    Unfortunately, you've not observed our forum rule of providing the source of the material you question.
    Perhaps you can correct that. ;)
  5. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, the source is always important. It appears to be from the romantic novel Hostage of the Hawk (1994) by American author Sandra Marton.

    This is known as the zero relative (ie no relative pronoun), and can be heard in some non-standard varieties of English, and so it doesn't sound absolutely strange to me. Learners shouldn't try to imitate this though.

    There's even a famous bit from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice when Shylock declares that Portia (playing the part of a lawyer) is 'A Daniel come to judgement' (Act 4, Scene 1). It uses this structure too: [You are] a Daniel [who has] come to judgement.

    See also:
    the sexiest person ever lived
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  6. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    Is it really non-standard, though? "It was a dream come true" or "...a dream become reality" sounds like perfectly normal English to me, while "It's an idea _ been in my head for ages" does indeed sound non-standard at best, because the verb is not "come" (or derived from "come") anymore.

    I found another example, poking around Google Books:
  7. manfy Senior Member

    German - Austria
    I agree. Natkretep's example, "the sexiest person ever lived", seems syntactically different.

    I always looked at the participle phrase from the OP as a simple postpositive adjectival phrase, but I'm not sure if the official English grammar supports this view.
    Girls gone wild, a plan gone wrong, a roast cooked to perfection, etc. sound like normal phrases that can be heard often.

    If you think about it, 'a perfectly cooked roast' has practically the very same meaning as 'a roast cooked to perfection'.
    The ad-hoc phrase 'a cooked-to-perfection roast' might actually be acceptable from a grammar point of view, but it's simply so unidiomatic that you'll probably never hear it from a native speaker.
  8. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I am not sure this is relevant. You can say Chicks newly emerged from the egg are bald. but I have never heard The chick is emerged.

    Clearly some intransitive verbs have a form that looks like a past participle and that can act like an active participle (or maybe like an adjective). All the verbs that I can think of at the moment that do this are synonyms of "appear".

    We think of the -ed forms of verbs as a past participle passive, and of the -ing form of verbs as making a present participle active, but it's not that clear-cut.

    Do you have a link for that?
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  9. pouyou Member

    Sorry sdgraham: I did forget to give the source indeed. Natkretep is right: it comes from the novel Hostage of the Hawk (1994) by Sandra Marton (from a dialogue, that's why I thought it could have been informal English).
    Thank you all for your answers. These grammar debates are very interesting but, unfortunately, they are too complicated for me to give an opinion.
    Thank you again and keep up the good work.

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