Come With

By Maeve Maddox

“I’m going to the movies. Do you want to come with?”

A reader in England has noticed that this elliptical use of “come with” on British television and doesn’t care for it:

I find it to be an expression I prefer not to use, as it sounds grammatically wrong and very odd, even though, were I in Germany, I would automatically and happily use the equivalent expression “Kommen sie mit”. Do you know the age of the English “Come with”?

There is an example in the OED of a 19th century elliptical use of with without an object:

in slang use, in reference to liquor means mixed with sugar, having sugar added; usually in phrases hot or cold with.
1836   Dickens Sketches by Boz 1st Ser. I. 84   Two glasses of rum-and-water ‘warm with—’.
1843   R. S. Surtees Handley Cross I. x. 202   Fatch me up a glass of cold sherry negus with.
1843   R. S. Surtees Handley Cross I. xv. 322   ‘Take a glass of brandy,’ said she… ‘hot with? or cold without?’

Where did the modern usage originate?

The reader’s mention of German “Kommen sie mit,” points to the answer. Large numbers of German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch immigrants to the U.S. settled in the midwest, near the Great Lakes. “Kommen sie mit” migrated into the local English dialect.

English is, after all, a Germanic language. Old English mid, meaning “with,” survived into Middle English and was sometimes spelled mit.

Many American speakers dislike the usage as well:

Why do people say, “Can I come with” and “Do you want to go with”? That “with” hanging on the end of the sentence has always driven me crazy.

That reaction seems a bit extreme. My Chicago relations say it. I find it odd, but endearing. It is, however, a regionalism that has not acquired the status of standard English.

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20 Responses to “Come With”

  • Ty

    Could it possibly have something to do with minding dirty-mindfulness?

    “Do you want to come?”, that could sound ambiguously dirty.

    Alternatively, saying “Do you want to come with me?” sounds a bit unnatural (talking in terms of script/dialogue writing).

    So, though it may not be grammatically proper, I think “Do you want to come with?” is the best and most natural use.

  • Alia

    I can confirm that the hanging ‘come with’ the reader refers to, is absolutely not acceptable in Britain. I’m English, and this is a recent trend that I rather assumed had migrated from Hollywood, as so much seems to have been during the last 20 years.

    Should someone use the term here, inevitably they will be promptly corrected.

  • Julie Link

    I’ve never liked the truncated “come with,” but knowing that it derives from a legitimate German phrase increases it’s tolerability to my ear. 🙂

  • Nancy Romness

    You nailed it, Maeve. “Come with” sounded normal to me, while I was growing up (mostly) in Chicago. When I later moved to other places, “come with” began to sound “uneducated” to me. The German connection makes complete sense.

  • Jocelyn

    Just a note to clarify the Germanic aspect of “come with”:

    There are verbs in German that have separable prefixes, which means that, when the verb is conjugated, the prefix scurries off to the end of the sentence (unless it’s part of a subordinate clause, but that’s another story). In other words, the German verb here is not “kommen” but “mitkommen”. The verb “mitkommen” itself means to “come along/come with”, which probably explains how we turned “Kommen Sie mit” into “come with”.

  • thebluebird11

    So funny to have this post now, because I have been thinking about this phrase a lot recently. I grew up in NYC and although I live in Florida now, it’s still east coast. Several years ago I met someone who grew up out west (and he happens to be of Norwegian descent), and still shuttles up and back, depending on the weather and his wife’s vagaries, between areas like Tucson and Sturgis. I first heard the “come with” expression from him, and figured it was out-west slang, and we in backward Florida had just not “gotten” it yet. It sounded kind of hip, coming from him (he is sort of an aging hippie LOL), and when I talk to my dog, who is mainly interested in whether or not I’m putting food in front of him and could not care less about grammar in ANY language, I often say, “I’m going out to check the mail; do you want to come with?” He usually bolts upstairs. Maybe I don’t give him enough credit; maybe he’s a real grammar stickler. Maybe if I said “Do you want to come with ME?” he would grab his leash and head for the door LOL
    In my dreams haha!!

  • Michael C. Cordell (@SoCalVillaGuy)

    Being from New York, I never even heard that construction until I began dating my wife, a native of the Chicago suburbs, back in the late 90’s. At first it caught my ear like a skip in a record, but it grew on me to the point where I started saying it myself … and never looked back. I love adopting some of her regionalisms … makes us even closer 🙂

  • thebluebird11

    Kind of reminds me of the old days here in Florida (maybe 15 years ago and prior), when smoking was still allowed indoors. Ugh. Anyway, you would walk into a restaurant and the first thing the greeter would say is, “Smoking or non?” I guess I’m a non.

  • venqax

    “Smoking or non?” I guess I’m a non.
    I think that sums it up: It’s an abbreviation. Not much different from memo for memorandum or info for information. I’ve heard it all over the country for quite a while.
    It is, however, a regionalism that has not acquired the status of standard English. Definitely NOT standard, but I wouldn’t even call it a regionalism. Just plain old slang. Nothing more and “hopefully” NEVER anything more.

  • venqax

    Come to think of it, is this really any different from, “I’m going to the store, do you want to come along?” Along…what? Along with me is implied. Yet that sentence does not sound incomplete like, “Do you want to come with” does, it appears to be just as (incomplete). There’s probably a good reason for that, but I don’t have the inclination to puzzle it out right now, LOL. I fear this is one of those “types of clauses”-type issues that I really, really detest.

  • thebluebird11

    @venqax: Nothing wrong with implication; we do it all the time in perfectly standard English and presumably every language. In sentences like “I’m going to the circus, and he is too,” or “I’m jumping in the pool and so is she,” the implication is that he too is going to the circus, and she too is jumping in the pool. You don’t have to say it. So, if someone asks if you’re coming along, the implication is coming along WITH THEM, and the same is understood for all the other implied partial words/words/phrases mentioned. If someone asks “Are you coming with?” we all know perfectly well what they mean, what they’re implying. I was initially uncomfortable with this little elision, but since it’s usually said by a friend in a friendly manner, what else can you do but go with! 🙂

  • venqax

    @bluebird: I agree as to going along with it as informal, slang, etc. I wonder, though, why saying, “Do you want to come with?” seems incomplete and informal, whereas, “Do you want to come along?” sounds complete and suitable for even formal writing. Is that simply idiomatic? How much “eliding” can we get away with? “Want to come?” is the same as “Do you want to come?”, so, want to come with? Come with? With? You already hear, “I’m to the market” for “I’m going to the market.” (Though not very often, yet).

    “I’m to store. With?”
    “Ok. I’ll”

    …is this what happend to Chinese?

  • Alice Kemp

    I’ve noticed in the real estate field, that phrase is being increasingly used when asking about what appliances, outbuildings, etc. convey:
    “Do those appliances come with?”

  • Mihla

    This is a common expression in Minnesota, and annoys people from other areas. Since the state has a large population of German descent, this article explains why.

  • thebluebird11

    LOL @venqax: “I can name that tune in…” Just how abbreviated can we make it and still understand each other? “Store. With?” “Ya.” Although this would not make great literature, it might not be an entirely bad thing… 😉

  • Phil Radler

    @venqax: I see a slight difference that addresses your example: “along” is also a recognized adverb meaning (from Webster’s Online) the following:
    a : in company or as company : as a companion

    Although Webster’s acknowledges it is often used with “with,” that isn’t mandatory. Perhaps that’s why you and I don’t twitch as violently at the usage (I do have a nasty but silent visceral reaction to “Want to come with?”: Ouch!). In all other respects, though, I endorse your always insightful, always amusing remarks in full.

  • venqax

    @Phil Radler: Thank you and you are probably right. “Along” does at least imply the idea of with something.

  • UponFurtherReview

    I’d call “go with” and “come with” (at the end of a sentence) regional slang — specifically, Chicago slang, and perhaps Upper Midwest slang.

    But definitely not Midwest slang. Try asking, “You want to go with?” in, say, Indianapolis and you’ll likely get a perplexed stare and a response such as “Go with what?”

    To the uninitiated, it’s a clunky expression, given that one could just as quickly say, “You want to go, too?”

  • Sue

    I absolutely cannot stand it when I hear people use that phrase and don’t finish it! I live in Virginia, in a very diverse area, so I do hear it from time to time. It’s very annoying!! FINISH THE SENTENCE!! sheesh

  • thebluebird11

    @Sue: The sentence IS finished. It just depends where you want to end it.
    -Do you want to come with me?
    -Do you want to come with?
    -Do you want to come?
    -Do you want to?
    -Wanna?
    As venqax said…how far down can we distill it until we are left with…?

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