I stumbled upon this sentence:

'He's not a horse, he's—he's a creature come straight out of a nightmare.'

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 pronoun? Is it informal English or a mistake? If not, it it some sort of set phrase?

  • 1
    For me, "a creature [who has] come straight out of a nightmare" is a typical speech ellipsis. This is a dialogue, right?
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 21:39
  • @Lambie It's dialogue, aye, but it's a "fantasy" novel, and the use of pseudo-archaisms is de rigueur. "Fain would I master yon dragon!" Jul 31, 2017 at 21:49
  • I would say this: it is elliptical speech. I would never say it is a pronoun, come what may. And I am not sure it is pseudo-archaic. It's more regional.
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 21:56
  • @P.E. Dant I don't think assuming elided words is more complicated than your explanation. As for "come what may", that is not like the example. And yes, "remnant of the subjunctive" if you must. Personally, I don't think English ever had a subjunctive but those Latinists didn't know what to call it.
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 22:39
  • @Lambie It's not I who calls this come a remnant of the subjunctive, it's Huddleston & Pullum! It's accurate to say that "English" as we know it never had a subjunctive (nor even "voices" for that matter) but the older, inflected languages from which our modern English arose absolutely had them. Call it "subjunctive" or "flamgully", what does the label matter? In this case, the writer strives for pseudo-archaic tone. It's standard for a "bodice-ripper" like this one. Jul 31, 2017 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


In modern English, the past participle of come is come. (In the 14th and 15th centuries, it was sometimes comen, cf. driven for the verb drive.)

This come is that past participle of come. This is a somewhat archaic, or regional and vernacular usage of this particular participle, but it is not uncommon to use the past (or present) participle of English verbs as adjectives in the postnominal position. Consider:

  • He's a creature summoned straight out of a nightmare.
  • It was a car driven off the road.
  • They were an army drowned in the tide.

Whenever a past participle is used as an adjective in the postnominal position, it is of course possible to add a helper verb and relative pronoun as its subject:

  • It was a car (that was) driven off the road.
  • They were an army (that was) drowned in the tide.

However, the helper verb and relative pronoun are not omitted from the original sentences, and neither are they omitted from your example:

  • He's a creature (who has) come out of a nightmare
  • Not sure you have reason here. [said on purpose as a joke].
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 21:39
  • @Lambie Imagine the food fight if I had included something about the unaccusative! Jul 31, 2017 at 21:43
  • 2
    +1 (but I think you mean postnominal.) It's not irrelevant that in older English the perfect of verbs of motion was formed with BE, not HAVE, so if you subscribe to the notion that postnominals are reduced relatives this use of come is ordinary Whiz deletion. Aug 1, 2017 at 9:54
  • @StoneyB Do you seriously think the OPs around here have any clue what you and P.E. Dant are on about?
    – Lambie
    Aug 1, 2017 at 14:06
  • @Lambie The OPs? Hell, half the time I myself don't know what I'm on about. Aug 1, 2017 at 14:32

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