I often read books by different authors and each one has their own way of using verbs and the sentence-structures are often very strange. I was just wondering if from the point of view of Modern English grammar both variants of "Then the King came in" are correct:

  • Then in came the King.
  • Then came in the King.

I think it's only used in poetic English and is very old-fashioned. I can't say whether or not it is correct English but it sounds amazing.

  • I don't like the first one. I feel like the verb "came" intterupts the prepositional phrase constituent. May 30, 2017 at 10:59
  • "Then came in the King" is fine. This inversion is likely when the sentence has an initial adverbial. May 30, 2017 at 11:09
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    @user178049 I disagree - if you are just using it as a sentence the first one makes sense and the second one doesn't. If you are saying a list of people entering somewhere, you can use the first one or drop the "in".
    – SteveES
    May 30, 2017 at 11:12
  • @SteveES Both make sense and express a complete thought. But the first one sounds very wrong to my daily practiced ears. And why doesn't the second one make sense? In my experience, it sounds perfectly fine just like "Down came the rain and washed the spider out". May 30, 2017 at 11:26
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    @user178049 I'm fairly sure I've read books that use the "in came x" structure. My problem with the second is the position of the "in" - without "in" it's fine. "in came the king" is the same structure as "out came the sun"; saying "came out the sun" doesn't make sense to me.
    – SteveES
    May 30, 2017 at 11:32

1 Answer 1


Both are valid forms.

The first

Then in came the King.

is found usually in storytelling contexts. Moving the preposition before the verb and the subject after the verb puts greater emphasis on preposition and verb, all for dramatic effect. Compare "Then down came the rain" and "Out came the sun":

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain
and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
and dried up all the rain
and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

The role of many prepositions is to define the unfolding of action in space-time. Moving the preposition to a position of greater prominence draws greater attention to the elemental physical aspect of the action. The rain is falling. The sun emerges from the clouds.

The inverted word order in the second sentence (Then came in the King) is an archaism found mainly in storytelling contexts. Nowadays we would add there:

Then tumbled in six acrobats.

Then there tumbled in six acrobats.

There tumbled in six acrobats.

Tumbled in six acrobats. not used

In the mode of #1:

In tumbled six acrobats.

  • I really dislike "in came the King". Can a prepositional phrase be interupted like that? What's the rule behind it? May 30, 2017 at 11:36
  • What is the "prepositional phrase" there? I don't see one.
    – TimR
    May 30, 2017 at 11:36
  • I believe "in the king" in "came in the king" is a contituent of a prepositional phrase. May 30, 2017 at 11:38
  • You are mistaken. in is what used to be called an adverb. It has no object here. in describes direction of motion.
    – TimR
    May 30, 2017 at 11:38
  • I don't think the second version is ok (although I'm not sure I can explain exactly why and I'm happy to be proved wrong)
    – SteveES
    May 30, 2017 at 11:39

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