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be he alive or be he dead...

What tense is this?
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Hello Anon,

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,

MrP
Comments  
Present subjunctive.
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BokehPresent subjunctive.
I thought that didn't exist in English.
Can anyone else shed some light on this.
 MrPedantic's reply was promoted to an answer.
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