He comes to class at 9 AM. In the above sentence to class, the adverbial of place comes before at 9 AM, the adverbial of time.

Why is the below sentence wrong? **He comes at 9 AM to class."

  • 4
    In your example, "to class" is not an adverbial, in my opinion. It's a complement of "comes".
    – Greg Lee
    Apr 16 '20 at 11:44
  • This rule applies to English. In German, time routinely comes before place, but German puts certain important elements at the end, so Greg Lee's explanation might hold water. Apr 16 '20 at 11:47
  • I wouldn't call that an adverbial of place - still it’s true that there’s a strong preference for the indication of place to come before the indication of time. It’s not an absolute rule and can be broken for emphasis, e.g. you must go AT 9 AM to your designated pick-up point.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16 '20 at 11:54
  • I’m not sure if there is any deep reason for this particular order, although many other things seem to have preferred orders too – adjectives being the most obvious example. I can’t immediately come up with an example that would be liable to be misunderstood if the order deviated from the norm, so I doubt it’s for clarity.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16 '20 at 11:54
  • 2
    Come to think of it, I don't think there's any particular preference between we're meeting at 9 at the station and we're meeting at the station at 9, so I think you have to sort out the parts of speech before you can really address the question of order.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16 '20 at 12:33

"come to class" is perceived as a verbal phrase. to class completements come which on it's own would be incomplete, and substandard in contrast to arrived.

You could as well say He arrived at 9 am in class, with both adverbial phrases.

This shows that your premisses is faulty and needs to be revised, when the remaining question why do we say … is too broad. Because we can, that's why. Can't we say He come at 9 to class? Hardly, that would be perceived as introducing a relative verbal phrase. * What was he to class about? How long was he classing? You might wonder. So, the pressumed word order is not available, because the semantics of to are restricted in this position. In other words, it is not idiomatic. That says nothing about the Why though.

PS: Indeed, I meant to argue elsewhere that come to is infact a lexical unit, but that's difficult. I'm concerned about German, in which seperable compounds like zugehen, da geht es zu, zukommen, hinzukommen offer more semantics to compare and extract an underlying representation of the surface form, that is not regularly recognized with the prepositional use: 1a) Ich komme zu dem Haus "I come to the house" 1b) Das Haus kommt mir zu "the house becomes mine". In thise usage kommen is proscribed for formal registers (and probably not only because of the vulgar connotation "to cum"), though ankommen "arive, venir" is formally regular (also seperable, ich komme dort an "I arrive there"). I want to argue that come cannot be simply reconstructed as *gwem- "to step"; on the one hand the participle prefix ge- requires furthervunderstanding to be excluded from the picture, though phonologicly it doesn't match well; yet, ge- from *kom- "with" well fits the semantics (cp. convene, come-with, zukommen, mitcommen, and derelict commitative, allative, illative cases, or rather aspects). Be that is it may, this Ansatz does depend on the notion of Proto-Indo-European preverbs and the difficult history of the Place-Words (cf. Brosch 2013). Therefore it has repeatedly been noted that preverbs were ordered rather freely, but are seen fixed in individual expressions. At that, I suppose, thethic and deictic, aspects play an important role (we know the place, only the time is new information). But, mirandering as I am, I have obviously no clear answer. Sorry. I merely hope to have shown that the question can be very difficult to treat with rigor.

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