sign in   |  sign up
Dr Grammar

Joy to the World

Posted by smilemily   1 Jan 2014 10 25 pm

Dear Alex,

Happy New Year

At the end of the year, we usually sing the song Joy to the World. When it comes to the second line: the Lord is come, I always feel puzzled about it. Does the word
“come” serve as an adjective in the sentence?

When I come across some movie, I usually hear the clause “he is gone”. Does “gone” have the same function of “come” as indicated above?


Emily Tse


Posted by alex stringer   2 Jan 2014 1 46 pm

Hi Emily

'The Lord is come' is an archaic form. The song was first published in 1719 and there were slight differences in grammar and vocabulary in those days.

I've just looked at the lyrics on the Internet and notice that some show the line as 'the Lord has come', which would be the standard way to express this idea today.


Posted by smilemily   8 Jan 2014 11 39 pm

Dear Alex,

Is it true that “he is gone” is only used in informal oral English? In formal English, it should be “he has gone”. But on a number of occasions, I heard this sentence in movies.


Posted by Davros   9 Jan 2014 9 18 am

As I said before, I don't think 'he is gone' is very common nowadays. People usually contract subjects and auxiliaries when speaking, so you hear 'he's gone,' which could be either 'he has' or 'he is'.

It's a complex area because there are all sorts or exceptions and irregularities. For example the phrase, 'Are you done?' meaning 'Have you finished?' I don't remember using or hearing this much when I was younger. Possibly it's more popular in America.

Where does that leave us? In written English, the norm is to use the present perfect for recent actions with present relevance and I think this is a pretty reliable rule:
He has come.
I have finished.
She has gone.

This holds true for spoken English, but remember that native speakers learn sounds, not grammar. When people say, 'He's come', they don't think much about whether they are saying 'he has' or 'he is'. (Just look at YouTube comments. People even write 'should of' instead of 'should have'. Of course, the pronunciation is the same.)

So listen and train your ear. If native speakers use it, it's OK. In HK, learners are woefully ignorant of everyday spoken English. Which is why they tend to sound excessively formal - like talking memos - and have problems understanding normal conversation.

(I'm logged into another part of the site, thus the Davros handle)

Posted by smilemily   11 Jan 2014 12 07 am

Thank you very much.

Reply to this post

Post your reply here:

Back to front page