I apologize sincerely as if I am asking here about the Holmes' series quotations.

Now, I stumbled upon a "new phrase" to me.


The note was undated, and without either signature or address.

"There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o'clock [it said], a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask.

The "standard" English I have learned for so many years, when you would like to express the existence of something, ( in the future case, )

There will be + noun.

Is this as I am asking at the title, the 19th or 20th century British expression or the reflection of the age?

  • What do you mean by "reflection of the age?" Which age are you referring to?
    – godel9
    Apr 1 '18 at 0:17

I'm not sure that specific phrase is a late 19th or early 20th century British expression, but the general use of "there will" with anything other than "be" definitely comes across as old-fashioned.

As evidence that the construction itself is a little dated, consider the following versions that mean the same thing but sound more modern:

There will be a gentleman calling upon you tonight, at a quarter to eight o'clock [it said], who...

A gentleman will be calling upon you tonight, at a quarter to eight o'clock [it said], who...


The Sherlock Holmes stories were published between 1887 and 1927, and are mostly set between 1880 and 1914. So we can ascertain that this was definitely common parlance at that time, and also significantly before - I was in a production of Much Ado About Nothing (c. 1600) but a month ago and similar grammar was used there.

As for modern day English, this kind of construction isn't used much anymore, but is certainly understood. I wouldn't expect to hear it much here in Britain. The only case I might use it would be by accident, if I decided to change my sentence halfway through saying it, or perhaps if I wanted to highlight the event:

There will be a meeting of the council tonight.


There will tonight be a meeting of the council.

The second one, in my opinion, puts more emphasis on the meeting itself by getting the time out of the way first. Although your example would place a comma after 'tonight', I think in modern fluent speech a sentence as the one I wrote above would be pronounced as if there was no comma.

I think it's safe to date this as early 20th century, although it is by no means deprecated grammar.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes


I found an answer. After having read the book, I found a paragraph in which Watson says the construction of the sentence is not English.


"Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence -- 'This account of you we have from all quarters received.' A Frenchman or Russian could not have written that. It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts."

Thank you for both of you, but it seems the line about which I asked sounded weird is not the "error" or the "style of the age" of English.

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