I remember hearing a sentence in Game of Thrones season 3, it went like:

Ser Barristan, if they come to war, kill that one first.

Daenerys tells Ser Barristan to kill one of the rude master of second sons if they start a war. She said the above sentence.

I interpret this sentece in two ways:

  1. If they come to [the area of war], kill that one first.
  2. If they come to [war with us] ("war" as a verb), kill that one first.

I am confused which one is correct now. Can anyone please tell me if "war" is a verb or a noun in the above sentence?

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    The cited text isn't really either "idiomatic" or "grammatical" (and almost certainly never was; I don't think this is an example of a now-obsolete usage). I'm guessing it's something of a "mash-up" alluding to if it comes to war (if the situation deteriorates to that extent) and if they come in war (modelled on if they come in peace, but the "war" version is very rare). AND if they come TO WAGE war. Oct 24, 2020 at 11:55
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    The meaning is the same whether it’s a noun or verb, so it doesn’t really matter. I’d lean toward verb, though.
    – StephenS
    Oct 24, 2020 at 17:39
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    In "come to [a state]", I'd be inclined to see the state as a noun; I've been dating her for a week; it's too soon to know if it will come to marriage, when my mother and her sister-in-law meet, they frequently come to blows. Oct 24, 2020 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


It could be parsed either way, but it looks verbal to me. "War" does have use as a verb, meaning "to start or engage in conflict"

It is somewhat elevated language as a verb, but she is speaking as a queen and dragon-woman.

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    It sounds more like a noun to me. If they start a war/come to war, meaning more like a war zone. But yes it sure has a verb form, I agree. Oct 24, 2020 at 10:36
  • Compare with "come to play", in which "play" is certainly a verb
    – James K
    Oct 24, 2020 at 10:44
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    For the purposes of a learners' site, I'm not sure there's much point in analysing the syntax / grammar. It's definitely not "syntactically natural", but very likely the scriptwriters "justified" it on the grounds that it's a bit "strange / exotic", which is exactly what they're looking for in a medieval fantasy context. Oct 24, 2020 at 12:00

War is not a verb in that context. It's an abstract noun.

"War" can be used as a verb meaning to engage in conflict, but not here. In this context, the verb use would be "If they war…". Is that clearly different?

Even in "… to make war”, "war" would be a noun. Prove that by comparison to "make words/shoes/ships/sealing-wax/cabbages/kings". The grammar is the same; the meaning should be more clear.

Consider being "at war" against being "at daggers drawn". Could "daggers drawn" be a verb? What about "each other's throats"?

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