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The Phrasal Verb 'Come Over' Explained

Updated: Feb 19

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'come over', with examples and exercises.


A woman who has come over all sick

Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in.


This week it is the turn of the phrasal verb 'come over', which is a fairly common phrasal verb that shares some of its meanings with the common phrasal verb 'come across' (which you can find out more about by clicking here). 'Come over' does however have some other meanings that we will also cover in this post. So, without further ado, let's take a look at them....


KEY INFORMATION

​Usage

Common

Number of meanings

5

Separable?

No

Past forms

Came over / come over

British or American

Both

For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here

 

THE BASICS

The letters A-G spelt on in plasticine on a red background

Before we go any further, let's first of all consider the words which make up the phrasal verb 'come over', which will hopefully give some much needed logic to some of the idiomatic meanings that we will cover in the post.


Our main verb is the extremely commonplace verb 'to come', which broadly means to move towards the speaker or the place where the speaker is (or will be in the future).


We then have the prepositional particle 'over', which has several different meanings, but the meaning that is relevant for this phrasal verb is to move across an area, normally from one side of it to the other.


So now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different meanings of 'come over'....

 

MEANING 1: Literal


A woman coming over a rope bridge towards the photographer

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

Separable?

No

​Potential synonyms

To come across

As per usual, let's start by considering our chosen phrasal verb's literal meaning. In a literal sense, 'come over' means to physically move across an area or space, towards where the speaker is, or depending on the context, where the listener is. In addition, it can also be used to say that someone is coming towards you, normally with the intention of speaking to you. This is very similar to the literal meaning of the phrasal verb 'come across' but I would say that 'come over' is perhaps used more commonly by native speakers to express this particular meaning.


A more advanced usage (C1) of this meaning of 'come over' is to travel over a long distance from one place to another, usually involving crossing a sea or an ocean. This is often used when talking about people visiting a far away country or emigrating from one country to another.


Examples of usage....

Oh no! He's noticed that we're talking about him and he is coming over.
My parents came over to the UK in the 1960s and I was born here not long afterwards.
When are you coming over to visit us in Australia? We miss you!
 

MEANING 2: To visit someone's house



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Common

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

​To drop by, to visit

The second meaning of 'come over' is not so different from the literal version that we have just considered, as it is an informal way to mean 'to visit somebody's house', with the idea that the visitor travels across an area to end up at the speaker's house (or possibly the listener's house).


It is usually used when you are talking about somebody visiting you at your own home and is often expressed either as "come over to my house" or "come over to mine*". It is also absolutely fine to omit the 'to my house' or 'to mine' from the sentence as 'come over' on its own carries this implied meaning when used in the appropriate context.


Examples of usage....

What are you doing later? Do you want to come over to watch a movie? INTENDED MEANING: Do you want to come to my house later to watch a film?
I'll come over to yours next week and we can have catch-up! INTENDED MEANING: I will come to your house next week and we can catch up.

* When talking about a person's house, it is normal for native speakers to use the possessive pronouns mine, his, hers, ours etc


EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND MORE LIKE A NATIVE SPEAKER


Another variation of 'come over' that you may have heard before, especially in song lyrics, is 'come on over'. This is a common way of verbally inviting someone to join you where you are or to come to your house. Generally speaking, 'come on over' has the same meaning as 'come over', but we tend to use it when we are inviting someone to do something in the present, rather than at a point in the future. Moreover, I would say that it feels a little friendlier and softer than 'come over', which is also not hard or unfriendly. As such, 'come on over' is often used in an encouraging way, especially if the person being invited is reluctant to come for some reason.

 

MEANING 3: To be perceived



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To come across, to seem, to be perceived

Meaning number three of 'come over' means 'to be perceived' and again is very similar to the phrasal verb 'come across'. For this meaning, we are primarily concerned with how people, or the things that they say and do, are perceived or understood by others.


It can be used to describe both how a person's behaviour and messages or information are interpreted and viewed by other people.


When talking about how a person is perceived, we tend to use adjectives to describe a person's character or behaviour e.g. nervous, confident, shy and for this we require the extra word 'as'.


Examples of usage....

Lisa came over as very self-assured in the interview but in reality she was very nervous. INTENDED MEANING: Lisa seemed to be very confident in the interview but really she wasn't.
The politician comes over as weak and that is why people will not vote for him. INTENDED MEANING: The politician is perceived to be weak by others and therefore they will not vote for him.

Conversely, when using 'come over' to describe how a message or information is perceived by people, we tend to use adverbs such as well, brilliantly and strongly.

Did my speech come over well? INTENDED MEANING: Was my speech clear? Did people enjoy it?
Despite the social distancing during filming, the romantic scenes in the film came over brilliantly. INTENDED MEANING: In spite of the social distancing at the time of filming, the romantic scenes were well received by viewers.
 

Meaning 4: To suddenly feel different



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To suddenly feel, to be overcome with

The fourth meaning of 'come over' means to suddenly feel very different to normal. This can be in a physical way, for example when we start to feel sick, dizzy or faint. It can also be in a behavioural or emotional way, for example when we begin to feel very angry or sad all of a sudden.


When talking about these sudden changes that we experience, it is normal to include the word 'all' between the word 'over' and the adjective, perhaps to express that the feeling or emotion has taken over us entirely.

A man who has come over all dizzy


Often, with the sudden emotional or behavioural changes, it can often be because we have been affected by something that we have seen or experienced, however this is not always the case and 'come over' can be used here to describe when we experience sudden mood changes for no reason whatsoever.


You may have heard a native speaker say "I don't know what came over me!", which is normally used in an apologetic way when we do not know why we started acting in such a strange way. Alternatively, people can often use "I don't know what came over him / her" to try and excuse the wayward actions of another person and infer that they are not normally like that.


Examples of usage....

I was fine one minute and then I came over all dizzy the next and had to sit down. INTENDED MEANING: I was ok one moment and then the next I started to feel dizzy and needed to sit down.
She came over all sad in the middle of our conversation, so I hope I didn't upset her! INTENDED MEANING: She suddenly became sad during our conversation, so I hope that I wasn't the cause of it.
I'm so sorry about my behaviour last night, I don't know what came over me! INTENDED MEANING: I am sorry about how I behaved last night, I don't know why I behaved like that or what caused it.
 

Meaning 5: To change allegiance



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Rare

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To change sides

The fifth and final meaning of 'come over' is to change allegiance or, in other words, change sides from one side to an opposing or rival one. It is also used when people change their views on a particular subject, often in quite a radical way.


This is not such a commonly used form of 'come over' but nevertheless you may come across it in the realms of politics, sport (teams) and debates (ideologies and beliefs). This meaning is certainly the rarest out of the ones that we have looked at but I wanted to make you aware of it nonetheless.


Examples of usage....

What has made you come over to our way of thinking? INTENDED MEANING: What has caused you to start thinking in the same way as we do?
 

Multiple question marks on different colour backgrounds

EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to come over'....

  1. Do you want to come to my house tonight for dinner?

  2. My grandparents moved here from Europe after the war.

  3. The speech was received very well by the audience.

  4. I suddenly started to feel hot and sweaty and needed a drink of water.

  5. One minute he was fine and then all of a sudden he got really angry.

  6. I've changed my view on the matter and have started to think like you do.

The answers will be available on next week's post.

 

EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'TURN UP' (other variations may be possible)

  1. John TURNED his head UP to look at the stars.

  2. Nobody TURNED UP to my party until after 11pm!

  3. I lost my cellphone last week and it TURNED UP a week later behind the sofa.

  4. Roger has taken his suit to the tailor to be TURNED UP.

  5. I can't believe that Birmingham City has won the football league, what a TURN UP for the books!

  6. Can you TURN your microphone UP as I can't hear you very well.

 

That is the end of today's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.


If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.


Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'come over' below. I really love reading them. See you next time! James

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