Tip of the day: You should all know this by now: It is incorrect to say “come and see” or “come out and help”, or any other “come…and…” phrase. It is an infinitive phrase: “Come to see”, “Come out to help”, “Come to have fun”. Don’t aggravate anyone’s pet peeves; just write and say it correctly. You’re welcome.Well, many of us linguistics graduate students felt this merited some kind of response. I don't know about other linguists out there, but if someone said this to me in a personal e-mail, or in conversation, I couldn't not respond.
And then, an amazing thing happened. We started drafting a letter in a Google document with 16 contributors. It was a litte chaotic, but we marshaled together intuitions, data, and argumentation, and had drafted this message in about an hour's time.
To whom it may concern:
We were recently sent a grammar “tip” via the [redacted] listserv which read:
Tip of the day: You should all know this by now: It is incorrect to say “come and see” or “come out and help”, or any other “come…and…” phrase. It is an infinitive phrase: “Come to see”, “Come out to help”, “Come to have fun”. Don’t aggravate anyone’s pet peeves; just write and say it correctly. You’re welcome.The linguistics graduate students felt that this required a response, as in fact, the cited examples “come and see” and “come out and help” are both grammatical and widely used constructions in American English.
The two constructions differ slightly in meaning. If one says,
it must be the case that the performance actually occurred; it cannot be the case that there were technical difficulties and the performance was cancelled. However,
- Mary came and saw Tupac’s hologram perform.
admits the possibility that the performance was cancelled due to technical difficulties. Therefore, asserting that the infinitive phrase is a uniformly appropriate replacement for the conjoined phrase is not an appropriate representation of the linguistic facts.
- Mary came to see Tupac’s hologram perform.
Phrases like “come and see” are not restricted to the spoken idiom, but are also used in the written language. They even occur in texts considered by some to be canonical, as the following examples show:
He saith unto them, “Come and see”. (John 1:39, King James Bible)
“Then you may come and see the picture”. (Merry Wives of Windsor II:II, William Shakespeare)
Thinking about it some more, I think at least the past tense "came to see" even has the implicature that either the seeing was unsuccessful, or there is some other more relevant event than the seeing which the speaker is about to tell us about.“Will you come and see me?” (Pride & Prejudice, chap. 26, Jane Austen)Generally, grammatical prescriptivism contributes little to useful discourse, and may even cause intelligent language users to be unfairly stigmatized. Thus, while we appreciate [redacted]'s light-hearted "tips-of-the-day," we would encourage authors to keep an open mind about the breadth of possible language use, especially in public forums.
*Department of Linguistics
Anyway, I think we did a bang up job, and produced a really excellent message, especially considering there were 16 authors!