top of page

The Phrasal Verb 'Come Down' Explained

Updated: Apr 15

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'come down', with lots of examples in context.


A dog with a hot water bottle resting on its head

Hello and welcome to my website for English learners all about English phrasal verbs!


'Come down' is a common phrasal verb in English with a variety of different meanings. For example, you can come down with a cold, possibly whilst you're coming down from a weekend of partying. Alternatively, you may hear an an English speaker say that they are coming down to your city or that they will come down on you like a ton of bricks. If these all seem a little strange to you, do not worry as in this post I will outline and explain all of the different ways that this versatile little phrasal verb is used in English. So, without further ado, let's get started....don't forget to leave a comment at the end!


COME DOWN: KEY INFORMATION For an explanation of the terms in the table, click here

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

8

Separable?

No

Past tense forms

Came down / come down

 
The letters ABC spelled out on a blackboard with books and chalk sticks in the foreground

THE BASICS

Let's begin by considering the meanings of the individual words 'come' and 'down'.


The verb 'to come' is one that you will certainly be very aware of as an English learner. It is primarily concerned with movement, specifically towards where the speaker is, was in the past or will be in the future. 'To come' is also regularly combined with particles, giving a large number of common phrasal verbs and expressions. It is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object and this equally applies when it is part of a phrasal verb. As such, it is usually used for meanings where there the active agent initiating or causing the action is not specified.


You will undoubtedly also be very familiar with the preposition particle 'down', which normally functions as an adverb and adjective in English. Commonly, it refers to movement towards the ground or a lower place, but it also has many other applications in English and, notably for this post, can be used to refer to things in written form, things that fall onto the ground and also movement towards a more southernly place. As an adjective, 'down' can mean sad or depressed and this is a theme that we will explore later in this post.


So, now that we have covered the basics, let's check out the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'come down'...

 

MEANING 1: To decrease


CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To reduce, to decrease, to lower, to drop, to go down, to dwindle

Nouns commonly used with

Inflation, price, level, cost

Let's start the meanings of 'come down' with a nice and easy one, which is 'to decrease', and is specifically used to talk about prices and levels.


This meaning of 'come down' is a combination of the movement aspect of the verb 'to come' with the particle 'down', providing us with the concept of decreasing.


As I mentioned, this application is normally used with levels, specifically when referring to ones that can fluctuate (go up and down) over time. We don't tend to use 'come down' in situations where one person is involved and actively causes the decrease to happen, but rather when it occurs organically or naturally, such as levels of inflation in the economy or a person's heartbeat after jogging for twenty minutes.


Examples of usage....

I am a diabetic and my sugar levels were very high earlier today, but luckily they have come down to normal levels again now.
Is there any chance that the wholesale price of gas will come down again this summer?
The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have gradually been coming down over the last two decades.
During an economic recession, it is normal for the prices of many commodities to come down.
 

MEANING 2: To fall and hit the ground

Snow falling on a field with trees, a hut and mountains in the background

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To fall, to collapse, to tumble, to crash

Nouns commonly used with

Rain, snow, sleet, hail, tree, airplane, building

The next meaning of 'come down' is another nice and easy one and is quite similar to the previous one, except that now we are talking about physical things falling, rather than prices and levels. To clarify, this meaning is 'to fall and hit the ground' and is again derived from the same meanings of the words 'come' and 'down' as the first meaning.


As you can imagine, we can use this application of 'come down' with reference to anything that falls and lands on the ground, whether that be from a previously standing position or from the sky. As such, we often use this for the weather, specifically with rain and snow, especially in the UK!


However, aside from that, this meaning of 'come down' is typically used when something falls to the ground because it is broken or damaged in some way and for this we can talk about fallen trees, an aircraft that crashes or collapsing structures. Again, similar to the first meaning, there is generally no direct human intervention involved or implied when something 'comes down'.


Examples of usage....

A lot of snow came down overnight and many of the roads are blocked this morning.
It is autumn and the leaves are coming down off the trees.
A number of trees came down in the storm last week but luckily they did not land on any power lines.
The airplane came down in the field and somehow the pilot and all of the passengers miraculously survived.
 

MEANING 3: To be removed or dismantled

A building being dismantled

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To remove, to demolish, to take down

Nouns commonly used with

Building, structure, decorations, picture, poster

One of the many meanings of the particle 'up' is to describe something that has been erected or is hanging on a wall. For example, if your Christmas tree is up, then it is standing in your house and if a picture is up on the wall, then it is hanging on the wall in an elevated position. As you will be aware, 'down' functions as the opposite of 'up' and therefore if a structure is no longer standing or if something is no longer hanging in an elevated position, we can say that it has 'come down'.


This usage of 'come down' can be used to refer to any objects that are placed in a high position and subsequently removed, as well as for structures that are built and later dismantled.


Unlike the previous two examples, there is human intervention with this usage, however grammatically we tend to omit the person or people who perform the action, which is inferred from the context.


Examples of usage....

It is the January 5th today, so the Christmas tree and decorations will all have to come down tomorrow.
I really dislike those curtains. They need to come down soon!
The telecom mast came down last year as the company wanted to replace it with a newer one.
 

MEANING 4: To travel to a place

A world map with a model airplane placed on top

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To travel, to head, to go down, to go

Every once in a while, friends of mine from Scotland contact me to tell me that they are coming down to England on a trip and they want to know if I will be available to meet up with them. The reason that they say they are coming down is because the next meaning of 'come down' is to travel in a southwards direction to a place. Interestingly, the opposite of this is 'come up', so if I ever go northwards to Scotland, I tell them that I am coming up to see them.


Of course, we are not all geography experts, so this isn't a hard and fast rule, however most people have at least a basic idea of the locations of their major cities and tend to apply this usage naturally as they imagine their up or down movements on a map.


To note, for this usage we only use 'come down' when we are talking to someone who is at the destination. For example, when my friends tell me that they are visiting me, they say that they are coming down to England because I am in England, however when they tell their friends who are in Scotland about their trip, they say instead that they are going down to England (unless the friends in Scotland are travelling with them).


Examples of usage....

My parents are coming down to London this weekend to see me.
John came down to Florida for a few weeks last summer and we met up.
The next time you come down, please can you bring me some scotch whisky.
My parents are going to come down with me to Melbourne next week.
 

MEANING 5: To stop feeling happy or high

A sad looking kitten in a basket

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To crash

As we are on the subject of trips to places, do you ever feel sad, low or a bit depressed after returning from a holiday or vacation? I often do and at such times I might say that I am coming down from the high of my holiday, because the fifth meaning of 'come down' that we will consider is 'to stop feeling happy or high'.


To clarify, when used in relation to people, the noun 'a high' is used to mean a very happy and exciting moment and if you are 'on a high', you are feeling happy or pleased about something for example, your favourite football team has won the cup or you have had a job promotion. Moreover, if you use the adjective 'high' to describe a person, it means that he or she is under the influence of drugs and therefore is not able to think or act properly etc.


Do you know the famous English expression "what goes up must come down"? Well, based on the premise of this, when someone is high, be it naturally or from drugs, they must eventually come down again, which generally means feelings of sadness and depression that are associated with being 'down'.


Although this is used for people like us who often feel sad after vacations and holidays, this application of 'come down' is in fact primarily used to talk about people when they stop feeling the effects of drugs and alcohol, which can often be quite serious and damaging to their mental health.


Examples of usage....

It was such a great weekend and it took me a long time to come down from it.
If you're coming down, you should drink lot of water and practice breathing exercises.
John came down from the marijuana and immediately wanted to smoke some more.

BONUS

The noun 'comedown' also exists and this is derived directly from this application of the phrasal verb 'come down' and means the period of sadness and depression following the end of a happy occasion or, more commonly, from stopping taking drugs.

 

The words 'TAKE A BREAK' written on a note surrounded by screwed up paper

Ok, so we have looked at the first five meanings of 'come down' now, so just take a minute to absorb them and let them sink into your memory. The next three meanings that we will look at all require an additional preposition to make sense....once you're ready to continue, scroll down ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️


 

MEANING 6: To feel the first symptoms of an illness


CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To fall ill

Nouns commonly used with

Cold, cough, bug, flu, virus, infection

Don't you just hate it when you are feeling fine one minute and then the next minute you can feel a tickle in your throat and the first signs of an illness are appearing. When this happens, you can say that you are coming down with an infection as the sixth meaning of 'come down' that we will consider is 'to feel the first symptoms of an infection'.


For this usage, we require the additional preposition 'with'. This is the only meaning of the construction 'to come down with' in English and the word order of this is fixed and cannot be changed.


As you have probably gathered, this application of 'come down' is all about the initial period of an illness or a disease, when the symptoms first start to show and you go from being well to being ill. We only use it for infectious diseases such as coughs, colds and the flu that tend to be short-term and we do not use it for other types of diseases such as cancer.


Examples of usage....

I'm not going to come with you to the cinema tonight as I think I am coming down with a cold and I want to stay at home and rest.
We were supposed to go on holiday to Spain last week but the whole family came down with Covid the day before we were due to fly, so we had to postpone it.
Lisa has come down with a nasty bug and won't be in the office today.
 

MEANING 7: To be the most important factor


CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To depend on, to hinge on

We all have to make difficult decisions at times in our lives. Usually, when making these tough decisions, we have to identify what the most important factor is and then base our decision on it accordingly. This is where our seventh meaning of the phrasal verb 'come down' is required as it means 'to be the most important factor'.


For this usage, we require the additional preposition 'to' and, as with the previous one, the word order is fixed and cannot be changed.


As I stated earlier, "to come down to" normally applies to decision making, for example "what I decide to wear tomorrow will come down to what the weather is like" however we can also use it for situations, particularly problems and questions, where one factor is more important than the others.


Examples of usage....

I'm not sure whether or not to sell the house. It all comes down to how money we will make if we do.
The government are currently working out if they need to increase their expenditure but it will all come down to how effective the spending will be.
Our problem essentially comes down to the fact that we don't communicate enough.
In penalty situations, the result of the football game will come down to whichever team has the best goalkeeper.
 

MEANING 8:To punish someone


CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To punish

The final meaning of the phrasal verb 'come down' that we will look at is 'to severely punish someone' and for this we require the additional preposition 'on'.


If someone comes down on you, it means that they punish you in some way for something that you have done wrong. Usually, we add an adverb such as 'hard' or 'soft' to describe if the punishment was severe or light.

IDIOM ALERT!

A nice idiom to be aware of with this application is 'to come down on someone like a ton of bricks', which means to severely punish someone.


Examples of usage....

If he finds out what you have done, he will come down hard on you!
Regardless of what she does, Roger always comes down soft on his daughter.
The authorities came down on the criminals like a ton or bricks.
 

The words 'THE END' spelled out in yellow tiles on a blue background

We have now reached the end of the post, so let's quickly recap the different meanings....


Firstly, we can use 'come down' to talk about a reduction in levels and prices. A second meaning is to describe something that falls to the ground, is removed from an elevated place or is dismantled. If someone visits you from a place more northern than where you are, you can say they are coming down to see you and if you have taken drugs or have had a natural high and the good positive feelings start to fade, you can also say that you are coming down.

Lastly, we can come down with an illness, meaning that we start to feel ill and somebody can come down on us, which means to punish us!


Now it is YOUR turn. Leave a comment on the blog post with your own sentence using 'come down', comments or suggestions....don't be shy!!!


Sign up on the form below if you want to receive new blog posts directly by email every week as soon as they are published.


Also, if you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media. See you next time! James 😊


Related Posts

See All

Commentaires

Noté 0 étoile sur 5.
Pas encore de note

Ajouter une note

JOIN THE MAILING LIST TO RECEIVE NEW POSTS DIRECT IN YOUR INBOX!

Thanks for submitting! A new phrasal verb post will be emailed to you every Friday!

bottom of page