Would you please explain the meaning of the italic part of the sentence below? Are there any words omitted?

Looks like it. I can’t be doing with this. The amount of paperwork I’ve got…You know what’ll happen. We’ll spend all day, running around in circles and then come six o’clock he’ll roll on in. Been to the zoo.

My guess is that someone will come at six o'clock and things will be messed up.

2 Answers 2


There's three parts to your question.

  1. "come six o'clock" roughly means "when six o'clock comes". This structure can be used to talk about various things that arrive in an abstract way:

"Come fall, we'll be able to harvest these pumpkins."
"My son's coming 18 and off to university."
"Come graduation, I'm moving away."

It cannot be used for physical things, like:

*"Come the asteroid, ..."
*"Come the taxi, ..."

  1. "rolls on in" is the phrasal verb "rolls in", with "on" inserted, which sounds more casual, friendly or "folksy". With many phrasal verbs, it's possible to add "on" between the verb and the particle:

"Come on in whenever you're ready."
"I'm gonna head on out after this drink."
"The red team is really moving on up the leader board."

It's not possible to insert "on" in phrasal verbs with "on" or "off" as the particle:

"*Put this jacket on on"
"*I told him on off"

Speakers of some US dialects nearly always insert "on", regardless of context.

  1. Here, "Been to the zoo" means, "I've been to the zoo". This is a quote of what "he" will say when he arrives at six o'clock. For stylistic reasons, the writer chose not the put quotation marks around this sentence.
  • Your answer gave me an inspiration! "When six o'clock comes, he (the missing person) will come back. And he will say 'I've been to the zoo.'"
    – K.N.
    Sep 24, 2021 at 19:19
  • 1
    Can I ask where you are from? "My son's coming 18" sounds very odd to me, although "Come the fall" or "Come graduation" are fine. I am a New York City native.
    – stangdon
    Sep 24, 2021 at 21:23
  • 1
    @stangdon It's not entirely natural to me either (a Canadian), but it's referenced that way at M-W. More natural to me would be "My son's coming (up) on 18", but that's not the usage the OP is asking about
    – gotube
    Sep 24, 2021 at 21:29
  • 1
    "cometh the hour, cometh the man". Sep 24, 2021 at 21:53

There are a couple of colloquial expressions:

  1. Come six o'clock is a colloquial way of saying at six o'clock. It's particularly common in telling a story.

  2. He'll roll on in means he'll arrive, with an implication of him being careless or vague. It might mean that he'll be drunk, but it doesn't necessarily mean that.

Typically British, I think: I'm pretty sure the first one is not used in American English.


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