See this "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" song

The itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout
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

Why do they say "Down came the rain" instead of "the rain came down"?

Why "Out came the sun" instead of "the sun came out"?

I couldn't find any grammar books mentioning this.

Could we say "Very fast ran he" instead of "he ran very fast"?

and, When can we use adverbs as subjects of sentences?

  • As FF explains, "down" and "out" aren't subjects. "Down" and "out" are preposed elements that would normally appear after the verb, as in "The rain came down" and "The sun came out". Your last two examples are ungrammatical: we can't prepose a verb and its dependent like that.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


In the sentences you mention, "down" and "out" are not really the grammatical subjects. The subject of a sentence must be a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase. Both "down" and "out" are adverbs describing the manner of the rain falling, and the sunshine arriving:

The rain came ... How did it come? ... "down".

The sun came ... How did it come? ... "out".

As this website explains,

The normal order of words in a sentence is subject, verb and object. But sometimes certain adverbs are put first and then this order is inverted, and the verb comes before the subject.

They go on to explain that adverbs are sometimes put first in a sentence in order to give them extra emphasis. A couple of examples are given which are very similar to your Itsy-bitsy Spider sentences:

They went off on a hunting trip. (Normal word order)

Off they went on a hunting trip. (Inverted word order)


Down he fell from his horse, with a heavy thud.

  • In Britain, we have a slightly different version called "Incy-Wincy Spider" Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:30
  • Yes, in US also, there are different cute ways of describing the spider. I learned "eensy-weensy".
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 17:01
  • Incy-wincy Spider climbed up the spout/Down came the rain and washed that spider out/Out came the sun and dried up all the rain/Incy-wincy Spider climbed up again. One can, when reciting it to a child, imitate the spider's motions with one's fingers. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 17:04
  • In fact one can also do miming actions for the rain and sun, and "Down" is prolonged, said with emphasis and a definitely falling tone, and works much better at the beginning of the line than at the end. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 17:20

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