Anonymous:be he alive or be he dead...
What tense is this?
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BokehPresent subjunctive.I thought that didn't exist in English.
Anonymous:Can anyone else shed some light on this.
In the same way that you can invert a past subjunctive:
1. If he were here now, he would do X =>
1a. Were he here now, he would do X.
you can invert a present subjunctive:
2. If he be alive, or if he be dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread =>
2a. Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
The present subjunctive is still used, in a few set phrases and after certain verbs that express a demand, a recommendation, or a desire, e.g.
3. Long live the King!
4. I demand that his bones be ground to make my bread.
But it's seldom used in an if-clause, in ordinary modern standard English, except as a deliberate archaism.
All the best,
People are waiting to help.
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