I'm reading Alice in Wonderland and came across this sentence:

“Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on...

(thinking about Cheshire Cat)

I'm quite confused by the "Come," usage. It feels like one could substitute it with "Since" preposition or with "It happens so that". Am I right? And can you elaborate on how this usage came to be?

  • 2
    It's a (relatively "old-fashioned", today) kind of conversational "filler", so it doesn't really "mean" much at all. If Alice were alive today, she'd much more likely say Well... (or perhaps Well, then...) before saying whatever she's got to say. There's also the repeated form Come, come! - usually with exclamation mark, being an interjection primarily used to call attention to one's next words. Often when disagreeing with what someone else just said. Feb 9, 2022 at 18:20
  • W. Shakespeare Measure for Measure (1623) ii. i. 112 Come: you are a tedious foole. Feb 9, 2022 at 18:31
  • 2
    Alice in Wonderland is filled with 19th c. expressions. I suggest you find a copy of the The Annotated Alice, which explains a lot of the text, even for English speakers. For example, it explains why Carroll hatters went mad and hence Carroll's Mad Hatter.
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2022 at 18:43
  • correction: why hatters went mad
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2022 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


In the paragraphs before, Alice was a little apprehensive. She was a little startled to suddenly see the Cheshire Cat, and, although it looked good-natured, she noted that it had 'VERY long claws and a great many teeth'. She decided to treat it with respect, and timidly addressed it as 'Cheshire Puss'. Its response was only to grin more. At this point she spoke to herself in thought. 'Come' (old-fashioned), 'come now', or 'come on' (slightly less so), can be used as an encouragement, especially to someone who is scared or nervous, e.g. if a small child was scared to go in a pool, its parent might say 'Come! (or come on!) - it's not deep!'. Alice is encouraging herself to be brave and ask the Cheshire Cat for directions.



People say 'Come' to encourage or comfort someone.


'Come, eat!' the old woman urged.

Come (Collins Dictionary)

  • 1
    My favorite book of all time. And in the end, only the smile was left. Ha ha.
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2022 at 18:45
  • @Lambie - mine's The Pickwick Papers but I know what you mean. Feb 9, 2022 at 18:55
  • Well, Mr. Harvey, Dickens is second on my list. Do you know that the Jarndyce & Jarndyce case from Bleak House actually has a "counterpart" in the longest-running lawsuit in the Western world (I think), involving Budweiser Budwar, a Czech and the US Anheuser-Bush [sp?] company. I translated a lawsuit brought by the Czechs against the Americans in - wait for it- Cuba.
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2022 at 19:02

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