If half the tales BE true


Kyrgyzstan, Russian

I have two questions regarding : " it is a dark place, if half the tales BE true"

1) What is the grammatical name of use of BE in the above phrase? ( is it subjanctive?)

2) Is there any difference between "if half the tales BE true" and "if half the tales ARE true"?

thanks in advance,
  • elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    It is subjunctive.

    There is no difference in meaning. "Be" is just archaic/poetic.


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Elroy is right, but there is a nuance of difference.

    "If half the tales are true" allows a comfortable margin of likelihood that this may be the case.

    "If half the tales be true sets up a "then" clause, whether implicit or spelled-out, that argues against the same likelihood.

    When Patrick Henry said "if this be treason" he wasn't entertaining the possibility that the statement in question really was treasonous. A viable subjunctive mood makes this noncommittal skepticism an option. It doesn't have to be defended because it is not posited, only alluded to as a possibility.