"Tom is a boy who lives in N.Y.," can be rephrased as "Tom is a boy living in N.Y.," right?

What about this statement?

"Tom is a boy who comes from N.Y."

Can it be rewritten as "Tom is a boy coming from N.Y."?

I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the phrasing for some reason, but I'm unsure why "a boy coming from N.Y." sounds odd while "a boy living in N.Y." doesn't.

When is it acceptable to use a present participle as an adjective, and when is it not?

  • 1
    Yes to your first question. "Tom is a boy coming from N.Y." is not natural, and it's ambiguous since it may be interpreted as "Tom is on his way from NY". See JavaLatte's answer for more details.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 27 at 9:23

2 Answers 2


As you say, "coming from" does not sound natural in this context. That's probably because, although it describes a present state, it does so by referring to something that happened in the past - Tom was born in New York, or Tom travelled from New York.

Tom is a boy coming from New York

Using the present participle like this is makes it sound like Tom is currently travelling from New York. What we actually want to indicate is that Tom was born in New York and at some point in the past he travelled from there. To do this we use the present simple form of the phrasal verb "come from".

Tom is a boy who comes from New York

Present simple is the right tense to use because it defines a permanent characteristic of Tom- it's effectively a stative verb.

Live is also a stative verb, so we can say

Tom is a boy who lives in New York.

In addition, Tom is currently living in New York so we can also use the present participle

Tom is a boy living in New York.

To sum up, the difference is that "come from" relates to a state resulting from something that happened in the past, whereas "live" relates to a current state. Because the latter is a current state, it's OK to use the present participle.


When you wish to express a general truth or a simple fact that is true and will always be true and has nothing to do with an event in progress, a completed action, or any other temporary or time-bound circumstance, use the simple present:

It takes two to tango.

It is taking two to tango. unidiomatic

Tom comes from New York.

Tom is coming from New York. unidiomatic when used in the sense of "hails from, was born and raised in"

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