When I searched the CAE, I found there are 38 sentences with 'word came that' and 8 sentences with 'the word came that' as in:
I will never forget the look on Tanner's face when the word came that they had found Daniel's body.
In China's English tests, 'the word came that...' is never treated as correct. Obviously it is because such a structure is not in any dictionary. I'd like to know if at all it is wrong to say 'the word came that'.
Could I ask native English speakers to help me please? Thank you in advance.
Without more context, it's impossible to answer: if 'word' is a synonym of 'news', "word came that" is correct, but if 'word' is a synonym of 'instruction' "the word came that" - though rarer - would still be correct:
Word came that Friday was to be a holiday.
The word came that they should fire when ready.
But your search criteria allow both cases. In fact, you'd need a pretty sensitive search engine to make the distinction - perhaps something like SNOBOL - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (which I see is now rather old hat).
Besides, because of the subtlety of this difference, it is quite possible that in any instance a native speaker may choose the 'wrong' option, but 'wrong' reflects only a very low level of unacceptability to my ear.
Last edited by BobK; 30-Apr-2008 at 10:27. Reason: Added "but ... hat)." sentence