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Is It Correct to Say “Come Across”?

While we might not live in the time of Christopher Columbus or Marie Curie, we still make discoveries every day. When we stumble across a funny website, we may say, “Look at what I came across.”

“Come across” is a grammatically correct phrasal verb to show we have discovered something by chance. We can also use “come across” in the past tense, “came across,” and both of these phrases are common ones. Additionally, we can use “come across” to refer to a person’s demeanor or temperament at a particular time. 

We commonly use phrasal verbs, and we don’t even realize it. Keep reading to learn more about “come across” and other similar phrasal verbs.

What Does “Come Across” Mean?

“Come across” has several meanings. In a literal sense, it means that someone or something is moving across a specific space. In a figurative sense, it refers to changing positions or viewpoints.

Idiomatically, “come across” refers to how someone views you or how you view someone else. It can also refer to the accidental discovery of something (source). 

We have to begin by breaking down the individual meaning of the words. First, “come” is a verb that has two specific meanings. The first meaning requires the movement of someone toward a place somewhere near the speaker. 

For example, the phrase “Come over to my house” indicates that you should leave the place where you are and go to the place where the speaker is. In this particular scenario, it is at their home.

The second meaning of the verb “come” is something that has happened or occurred. For example, “I’m waiting for them to come over.” While the main verb is “waiting,” the coming of the group is what the speaker is waiting for.

Example sentences:

  • I can tell them to come back.
  • We’re coming to stay for the holidays!
  • Jackie couldn’t come to the party because she got sick.

The term “across” functions as both a preposition and an adverb. As a preposition, it tells us the position of something in relation to another object. For example, you could run across the street or live across the street.

As an adverb, it has a similar meaning, and we use it to express the position or orientation of someone or something. An example of this is “He sat across from me.”

When we combine “come” and “across,” these two words become a phrasal verb. A phrasal verb is a common expression we often call an idiom, and it connects a verb with another word class, typically an adverb, as is the case here.

How Do You Use “Come Across”?

“Come across” is a phrasal verb, meaning that it appears as part of a sentence. It generally appears somewhere in the middle of a sentence, and the only time we can use it as a standalone statement is when we use it as an imperative minor sentence.

As part of a sentence, “come across” functions as a verb and appears directly after the subject or object. You can use this regardless of whether you are using it in the literal or figurative sense.

Example sentences:

  • I can come across as a bit of a weirdo.
  • This look helps her come across as a strong, energetic woman.

Sometimes we can place connotatively negative words before “come across” to change the meaning.

Example sentences:

  • Greg didn’t come across Katie at the party.
  • Carol hasn’t come across anyone like her before.
  • She hadn’t come across this animal before.

Using “come across” in a literal sense usually requires another verb or a subject in front of “come across” unless you start with the phrase itself, making it an imperative statement.

Example sentences:

  • Come across the street to my house!
  • The people come across the borders when there is war in their country.

You can use “come across” as a standalone minor sentence when giving an instruction or command, but we have to use it in particular circumstances. The phrase has to refer to the movement and position of someone.

Example sentences:

  • Come across!” he yelled at her, holding out his hand. “I’ll catch you!”
  • Jason looked at Portia across the road. “Come across,” he beckoned.
  • Come across!” she yelled across the dance floor at her friend.

When Can You Use “Come Across”?

Your usage of “come across” depends on what you are trying to say. When you want to show movement, you can use it to show how or where someone moved. When you want to use it figuratively, you can show that you have changed sides.

When using “come across” to show literal movement, you indicate that someone is moving from one place to another. This can refer to moving across a room, crossing a road, or a river. The main thing is that you use this phrase when you want someone to move.

Using it figuratively, you are indicating that you are changing sides.

You can also use it to show that you have discovered or found something, like an object or piece of information. This is when you are using it idiomatically.

Example sentences:

  • This is the best Asian restaurant I’ve come across.
  • Catherine is the most frustrating woman I’ve ever come across.
  • Please let me know if you come across something cool while on your holiday.

Finally, when you use “come across” with another meaning as an idiomatic phrase, you refer to how you view someone or something. It may feel like there is an overlap between the figurative and idiomatic meanings, but the main difference is about perspective. 

Figuratively, “come across” means to discover. Idiomatically, “come across” refers to perception — whether it’s how you perceive others or how they perceive you.

Example sentences:

  • I come across as a little mean when you first meet me, but I’m just shy.
  • You come across as pleasant, but that’s just a facade.
  • Glen can come across as rude because he’s so abrupt in his emails.

So, when using “come across,” make sure you use it for one of the reasons given above.

Image by Mimi Thian via Unsplash

In What Context Can You Use “Come Across”?

“Come across” has a neutral tone, which means you can use it in various contexts. It is perfect for both written and verbal communication, and, hence, you can use it just about anywhere.

As we mentioned in the previous section, “come across” applies in various scenarios. The main thing is to understand precisely when it is appropriate to use.

For example, when you want to use it figuratively to indicate that you are changing sides, it would generally be applicable in a competitive environment like a game or war. However, it can refer to any change in a situation without the physical act of moving at that moment.

Example sentences:

  • Do you want to come across to the winning team?
  • Chuck knew that Portia would come across and agree with his way of thinking.

You can use it when you need to order or command someone to move in a particular direction or in a specific way. You can use it to provide your perspective on someone, or you can use it for information to tell someone what you have learned.

When Not to Use “Come Across”

There is no specific scenario where you may not use “come across” unless others find it confusing or it is providing the wrong type of information.

For example, you should not use “come across” idiomatically to state that you have discovered something if you already knew it was there. You also may not use it idiomatically to express how you perceive someone if that is not the information you are trying to provide.

Another way that we can use “come across” incorrectly is by using it in the wrong tense. The simple past tense of this phrase is “came across,” while the simple present tense is “comes across.” We need to be aware of the tenses we need when using this phrase.

Using “Come Across” in a Full Sentence

“Come across” should appear in a complete sentence with a subject or verb preceding it. When we use it in an imperative sentence, “come across” will start the sentence, but we should add clarifying instructions directly after that.

Example sentences:

  • Please come across to visit me when you have a chance.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone like this before.
  • We want you to come across to our team — the pay is better.

We can only use it as a standalone sentence when someone is using it to provide a quick, possibly urgent, command. Like yelling at someone to “Come across!”

Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Come Across”?

It is grammatically accurate to say “come across.” It is dependent on what you are trying to say, however. It is most appropriate to use as part of a sentence, but we can also use it as a standalone statement under specific circumstances.

A phrasal verb is generally an informal language feature, which means you are most likely to come across it in a spoken form rather than a written text, but it does not change the meaning or usage.

Image by Javier Trueba via Unsplash

What Can You Use Instead of “Come Across”?

We can use several synonyms for “come across,” but these are dependent on the meaning intended in the term. When using “come across” literally, one could replace the phrase with “come over,” although this term is not a perfect synonym.

When using “come across” in the literal sense to indicate movement, it is hard to find a synonym that will work for both parts of the phrase. Another potential synonym is “proceed over” or “advance past.”

Example sentences:

  • Please come across to my house.
  • Please come over to my house.
  • Please proceed over to my house.

As you see, the meaning of the synonyms is not perfect, and while they all refer to the movement of someone, there is a change in the formality of tone. And the last example, in particular, is a little awkwardly phrased.

However, “come across” is easier to provide a synonym for when we use it idiomatically.

For example, when referring to “come across” as a discovery of something, then you can easily replace the phrase with “run into” or “meet up with” when referring to a person. When referring to an object, you can use “come upon,” “uncover,” “locate,” “discover,” and “happen on,” among others.

Example sentences:

  • I hope to come across a new artifact on my travels.
  • I hope to stumble on a new artifact on my travels.
  • I hope to uncover a new artifact on my travels.
  • I hope to discover a new artifact on my travels.

While there are some nuances of meaning within these synonyms, the meaning is still the same.

Finally, if you want to use another synonym for “come across” when it means to appear in a specific manner, then you can easily replace it with “seem,” “appear,” “look,” “strike someone as,” and “come off.”

Example sentences:

  • I come across as eccentric.
  • I appear to be eccentric.
  • I look eccentric.
  • I strike some people as eccentric.

Once again, these are not perfect synonyms, and you may require some extra information in the sentence to provide the same context or understanding. 

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are two-word phrases containing a verb and another particle like an adverb or preposition (source). They are generally informal, and we often use them in spoken language.

“Come across” is an intransitive and inseparable phrasal verb — this means that there is no object connected to it, and the phrase always appears together. We can use “come across” as a standalone phrase.

If you’d like to know more about transitive and intransitive verbs, look at “Is It Correct to Say ‘Discuss About’?

We use quite a few phrasal verbs in our everyday language. Their idiomatic meanings differ from literal ones, and we almost always use them idiomatically (source).

Example sentences:

  • I hope this situation works out for them.
  • When I look back, I’m thankful for everything I went through.
  • A lot of teachers have been burned out after the last two years.

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When identifying phrasal verbs, the main thing to do is to make sure that it has at least two parts, and we form them using a verb + other particles.

Final Thoughts

“Come across” is a phrase that we use so often in our everyday speech that we don’t think about what it means literally. Hopefully, this article came across as helpful, and now you have a much more robust understanding of “come across.”