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Which form of the verb to come from do I use?

  • Herbert von Karajan (just as an example) comes from Austria.
  • Herbert von Karajan came from Austria.

Should I use another form of the verb?

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  • It depends on the context. So, you know, providing more than just one sentence helps. But if he's still alive, then either form can work. If he's deceased, it is possible to use the present tense in some contexts.
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 16:26

2 Answers 2

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We ordinarily use present-tense forms with dead artists when we are speaking of their work, which is felt to be still ‘with us’, but not when we are speaking of their persons.

Shakespeare is the greatest of English playwrights.
Shakespeare came from Stratford in Warwickshire.

Von Karajan died 25 years ago, so you should use came unless:

  • you are composing a year-by-year chronicle and come from is intended in a literal sense:

    1955 Von Karajan comes from Austria to succeed Furtwängler as artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic

  • you are writing dialogue for a fiction set during v. Karajan's lifetime:

      “Who's this von Karajan you're proposing for Kapellmeister? That's not a German name—is he some sort of Slav?”
      “Not at all. Karajan comes from Austria, and his ancestors were Saxon, good Reichsdeutsche.”

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X came from Y suggests that X no longer exists at the original place.

X comes from Y suggests that we could get more X at the original place.

However, X comes from Y is often used to express the place where one was born or grew up. Saying X came from Y in the same situation may imply that X is not returning to Y for some reason.

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