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Hello all,

Consider these sentences:

1. «There lies our hope, if hope it be.»

2. «...and that was in the very year of the finding of this Ring: a strange chance, if chance it was.»

As I understand them, the ending clauses differ only in time, which I thought should be expressed by the corresponding difference in tense, but, to my surprize, not only in tense the differ...

In the first sentence it is a subjunctive, and in the second one it is not. Could you please explain to me this... how to call it... irregularity, if irregularity it be?

Anton
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Ant_222«There lies our hope, if hope it be.»
Modern English no longer uses the present subjunctive after if. You will find it, however, in older usage, and in modern works that attempt to create the atmosphere of by-gone times, and perhaps in sayings and proverbs which have retained their old forms in spite of changes in the rest of the language. Modern English: ... if hope it is or ... if it is hope.
Ant_222a strange chance, if chance it was.»
This is simply the expected modern indicative. I don't think the intent is to say,
If it were a chance, it would be a strange chance.
but,
It was a strange chance. Or maybe chance played no part in it at all.
so the subjunctive is not used in spite of the if.

CJ
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Tolkein did take a lot of poetic license in his novels, using older language forms and vocabulary and poetic meter.
Anyway, in line 1, the subjenctive shows the great uncertainty that hope even exists for the quest to succeed. The outcome is by no means certain. The sentiment is very dark, foreboding, and pessimistic.
In line 2, the author is recalling past events. In using the indicative rather than subjunctive, he is implying that the finding of the ring was preordained, not really chance, although it appeared to be so.
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Comments  
CalifJim It was a strange chance. Or maybe chance played no part in it at all.

I had understood the meaning, but was confused by the old-fashioned "if hope it be", which is what I had mistakengly considered to be analogical to "if chance it was"...

«If there's any hope, then it lies in Mordor.» — quite different from «It was a strange chance, if it was a change at all»

Hope I am getting right now...

Anton
 AlpheccaStars's reply was promoted to an answer.
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