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I was reading this book by Greene and wondered why he didn't use 'go' instead of 'come.' You would use 'go' for someone, including yourself, moving to some other place other than where you are/were, or where the listener is/was. I think Greene wanted for the readers to feel very much as if they had been in the situation; i.e. at the location of the station where the stage of the story was at that particular moment?

We drove up to the front door of the station.

[...]

A man appeared.

[...]

We didn't say anything for a moment. Then one of us said that we had just wanted to come down and see him.

('American Beat' by Bob Greene)

What nuance would you feel if come down were replaced with go?

  • To this American English speaker, using go there would feel incorrect. Go means to leave the place where the speaker is, as you understand, but in this case the speaker didn't want to leave a place, they wanted to arrive at a place (the station). – stangdon Dec 30 '16 at 23:44
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This is a fairly common question in English and is confusing until you understand the logic behind it.

In English you imagine yourself in a particular place or point of view, and then describe "come" or "go" from that point of view.

I will go home at 5pm (my point of view is wherever I will be at 5pm)

I will come home at 5pm (my point of view is at home)

In your example, the speaker takes his point of view from their current position, as if watching them get closer. It is slightly warmer, as it sounds nice to say that you'll come visit someone, but it's also logical since that's where they actually are.

It can be fine to use "go" instead, although it helps to first establish point of view:

We were all just sitting around the house so we decided to go down and see you!

  • Great. That's exactly what I wanted to hear to confirm my gut feeling. So if you just said out of the blue to your friend in the school cafeteria the following day, "We went down and saw James last night," it would be just fine; however, if you said, "We were there well before 15:00. We stood there in the cold. Everyone was shivering. Some came/went down by car, some by bus. I met a gentleman who had walked all the way from outside of the city," the choice would be definitely 'came.' Your mind is there where the story was developing. – Sssamy Dec 31 '16 at 1:54
  • I meant just that when I said, "I think Greene wanted for the readers to feel very much as if they had been in the situation; i.e. at the location of the station where the stage of the story was at that particular moment." – Sssamy Dec 31 '16 at 1:55
  • @Sssamy It sounds like you already understand it pretty well :) – Andrew Dec 31 '16 at 2:18
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He's using an idiom

come down
come by
come over

which means "stop by to visit". The expression is used from the perspective of the person being visited "come here".

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