May God bless / blesses you.

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Dayana Saldaña

New Member
Spanish
I’ve got a question.
Why is it used May God BLESS you instead of May God BLESSES you. If we are talking about third person singular, it should be blesses, right?
Is it correct that I write blesses instead?
 
  • Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    "May God bless you" is correct.
    It's a subjunctive form, actually, where the subjunctive is being used as a sort of third person imperative.
     

    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    The English subjunctive is a special, relatively rare verb form that expresses something desired or imagined.

    We use the subjunctive mainly when talking about events that are not certain to happen. For example, we use the subjunctive when talking about events that somebody:
    wants to happen
    anticipates will happen
    imagines happening
    Subjunctive | Grammar | EnglishClub
     

    Cerros de Úbeda

    Senior Member
    UK
    Spanish - Spain (Galicia)
    Why is May God BLESS used you instead of May God BLESSES you. If we are talking about third person singular, it should be blesses, right?
    Is it correct that I write blesses instead?
    No.

    Es que no es el presente de indicativo; 'Que Dios te bendice'.

    Es 'Que Dios te bendiga', con el presente de subjuntivo.

    Esto, en inglés, se hace con la estructura:

    'May + S + Infinitive without to'


    Creo que es porque may es verbo modal

    No es por ir con un verbo modal como 'may', sino por ser un uso arcaico, como 'Truth be told', 'So be it', 'Suffice it to say' o 'Heaven forbid'.

    En este post (#2) del foro 'English Only' dan una cita de 'Wikipedia' en la que se explica que tiene sentido orden, y por tanto se puede entender como de una forma del imperativo, ya que expresa un encarecimiento o un deseo vehemente.

    "A present subjunctive verb form is sometimes found in a main clause, with the force of a wish or a third-person imperative (and such forms can alternatively be analyzed as imperatives). This is most common nowadays in established phrases, such as (God) bless you, God save the Queen, heaven forbid, peace be with you, truth be told, so be it, suffice it to say, long live..., woe betide... It can be found used more broadly in some archaic English.

    An equivalent construction is that with may and subject-verb inversion: May God bless you etc."

    May God bless you.
     
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    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    In addition to what has been said, you can use this form with any similar sentence beginning with "may."

    May your wish come true.
    May he live happily for years to come.
    etc.

    Note, however, that while such "que ..." phrases are extremely common in Spanish, these "may..." phrases sound very formal in English.

    For example, if a group of tourists is waiting on the bus for others of the group who are late, someone may say, "Que tomen un taxi," but we would never say "May they take a taxi."
     

    Lyrica_Soundbite

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    Gracias Cerros por aclarármelo, siempre me termino complicando con los tiempos verbales :oops:

    Note, however, that while such "que ..." phrases are extremely common in Spanish, these "may..." phrases sound very formal in English.

    For example, if a group of tourists is waiting on the bus for others of the group who are late, someone may say, "Que tomen un taxi," but we would never say "May they take a taxi."
    En ese caso, ¿cómo se diría? Se me ocurre "let them take a taxi", pero también me suena raro :confused:
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    It's a subjunctive form, actually, where the subjunctive is being used as a sort of third person imperative.
    It is not a subjunctive form. It would be a subjunctive form if the sentence were: "God bless you", but the "may" in the original sentence removes any necessity for a subjunctive. It's like @Lyrica_Soundbite said in post #3.
    En ese caso, ¿cómo se diría? Se me ocurre "let them take a taxi", pero también me suena raro :confused:
    ¿Por qué te suena raro? Es como en español: "deja tomarles un taxi"? (Claro que hay más posibilidades en español como: "que tomen un taxi")
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    It is not a subjunctive form. It would be a subjunctive form if the sentence were: "God bless you"
    Hmmm, I disagree, though I can't be sure. I believe that "May God bless you" is indeed the subjunctive mood, as is "God bless you" because it is an ellipsis of the former. Wiktionary says the following about "may."

    (subjunctive present, defective) Expressing a wish (with present subjunctive effect).
    may you win;  may the weather be sunny
    ...
    Wishes are often cast in the imperative rather than the subjunctive mood, not using the word may, as in Have a great day! rather than May you have a great day.


    That latter part seems to make it clear that "may you have..." is a subjunctive construction.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    "may" is possibly a subjunctive in "may God bless you" (you could argue about that), but "bless you" is certainly not in "may God bless you".
     

    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    It is indeed the subjunctive.
    From the Collins Dictionary:
    The subjunctive - Easy Learning Grammar
    The subjunctive was formerly used in English for situations that were improbable or that expressed a wish. It is only rarely used in modern British English. It is, however, found in certain set phrases and in very formal forms of speech and writing.
    • God save the Queen!
    • God bless you!
    • God help us!
    • Heaven help us!
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    "may" is possibly a subjunctive in "may God bless you" (you could argue about that), but "bless you" is certainly not in "may God bless you".
    Can you provide any supporting evidence of that? I hesitate to argue with you on a topic you are so knowledgeable about, but I really think that you are mistaken here.

    And the examples given my Mr. Dent are all ellipses of the same sentences beginning with "may."

    May God save the Queen!
    May God bless you!
    May God help us!
    May heaven help us!
     

    Lyrica_Soundbite

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    It is not a subjunctive form. It would be a subjunctive form if the sentence were: "God bless you", but the "may" in the original sentence removes any necessity for a subjunctive. It's like @Lyrica_Soundbite said in post #3.

    ¿Por qué te suena raro? Es como en español: "deja tomarles un taxi"? (Claro que hay más posibilidades en español como: "que tomen un taxi")
    I don't know, maybe because in Spanish "Que tomen un taxi" may sound at times like a suggestion, whereas "Deja que tomen un taxi" sounds like I'm asking someone to allow these people to take a taxi.
     

    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    ‘Adding the word "may" as in "may God bless you" simply makes it absolutely clear that a wish is being expressed -- hence the use of the subjunctive.
    However, Peterdg, if you can present us with an authoritative academic source that says it is not the subjunctive, I am certainly open to being educated about it.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Can you provide any supporting evidence of that?
    I have two references:

    1) What I was told in secondary school (now more than 40 years ago)
    2) A practical English grammar, 2nd edition, A.J.Thomson and A.V.Martinet (also more than 40 years old)
    The grammar says:
    127d: may + infinitive can be used in expressions of faith and hope:
    May you be happy! (=I hope you will be happy).
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    2) A practical English grammar, 2nd edition, A.J.Thomson and A.V.Martinet (also more than 40 years old)
    The grammar says:
    127d: may + infinitive can be used in expressions of faith and hope:
    May you be happy! (=I hope you will be happy).
    Thanks for that, but I remain unconvinced that that "be" is the (bare) infinitive. My reason is that this construction is exactly what the subjunctive is supposed to be used for, hypothetical situations, which is why the subjuntivo is used in the same construction in Spanish (Que seas feliz).
     

    Rocko!

    Senior Member
    Español - México
    :confused::confused::confused: Este hilo me tiene confundido hasta la médula.

    Hasta el momento, la única forma en que puedo conciliar lo dicho por Peterdg es la siguiente:

    God bless you = Dios te bendiga.
    May God bless you = Quiera Dios bendecirte (ojalá que Dios te quiera bendecir).

    De todas maneras, las dos formas en inglés podrían ser completamente equivalentes (mismo significado) en la actualidad, y podría ser que solamente en épocas muy antiguas se usaba el "may" con significado de "quiera Dios", en estilos de hablar y de escritura que ya han desaparecido, especialmente en ideas como "y quiera Dios" (un "esperemos/reza/recemos por que Dios..").
     
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    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    127d: may + infinitive can be used in expressions of faith and hope:
    May you be happy! (=I hope you will be happy).
    This sentence structure is different from "may God bless you".
    Remove the word "may" from each sentence and you will see what I mean.


     

    Rocko!

    Senior Member
    Español - México
    Hay cosas que llaman la atención, como las siguientes:


    new1 djgwghiowrejjewfh.PNG

    English grammar, by George Oliver Curme.

    new2 goijkjfoiwrhgwjkepjoi.PNG

    A grammar of late modern English, by Hendrik Poutsma.


    Adicionalmente, el autor F. Rahtz menciona en su libro Higher English el concepto de Mixed Subjunctive.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Thanks for that, but I remain unconvinced that that "be" is the (bare) infinitive.
    May I return the question then: do you have a reference that says that "bless" is a subjunctive, and not a bare infinitive, in "May God bless you"?
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    May I return the question then: do you have a reference that says that "bless" is a subjunctive, and not a bare infinitive, in "May God bless you"?
    Touché! I guess I'd point to what Rocko posted above. As I said, I'm not certain about this, and I usually defer to you on this topic, but in this particular case it just seems like it is the subjunctive. But all of this is really academic, since both the bare infinitive and the subjunctive are written the same way, so for practical purposes it doesn't matter what it is called.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    :D
    I guess I'd point to what Rocko posted above.
    As far as I'm concerned, Rocko's post says that "may God bless you" is the new way the traditional subjunctive form "God bless you" (which indeed is a subjunctive) is expressed nowadays (and hence the term "new subjunctive"). It does not say anything about the "bless".

    And, as I said before, "may" could be a subjunctive, but I do not have any reference or argument (except for the quote of Rocko) that it is. It could as well be an imperative.

    Edit:
    But all of this is really academic, since both the bare infinitive and the subjunctive are written the same way, so for practical purposes it doesn't matter what it is called.
    True. But, look at the initial question of the OP. He asks why it is "May God bless you" instead of "*May God blesses you" and saying that it has to be "bless" instead of "blesses" because "bless" is a subjunctive, does not really help him. He could as well have asked: why is it "Can he do it?" and not "*can he does it?"
     
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    Rocko!

    Senior Member
    Español - México
    Los inventores de nuevas formas de expresión sus razones habrán tenido.
    A menos que me lo comprueben, no puedo aceptar un imperativo en "may God...". El "may" suena anti-blasfémico, no promo-blasfémico.
     

    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English - all over the USA
    A present subjunctive verb form is sometimes found in a main clause, with the force of a wish or a third person imperative (and such forms can alternatively be analyzed as imperatives). This is most common nowadays in established phrases, such as (God) bless you, God save the Queen, heaven forbid, peace be with you, truth be told, so be it, suffice it to say, long live…, woe betide… It is used more broadly in some archaic or literary English.[f] An equivalent construction is that with may and subject-verb inversion: May God bless you etc. English subjunctive - Wikipedia
    jussive

    the form of a verb that is used for giving an order, especially one that expresses a wish:
    In English, a jussive is often translated with the helping verb “may” or “let.
    JUSSIVE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
    The word "let" can be used to indicate the desire that some hypothetical situation come to pass or grant permission for this hypothetical situation to take place. This is called a "jussive subjunctive."
    Indicate: That peasant eats cake every day.

    Subjunctive: Let that peasant eat cake every day.
    The Subjunctive Mood
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    True. But, look at the initial question of the OP. He asks why it is "May God bless you" instead of "*May God blesses you" and saying that it has to be "bless" instead of "blesses" because "bless" is a subjunctive, does not really help him. He could as well have asked: why is it "Can he do it?" and not "*can he does it?"
    There is no question about the form after "can." It is a bare infinitive. But that does not necessarily mean that the same applies to the form after "may" in the construction being discussed here.

    ¿Puede hacerlo? / Can he do it?
    Que viva cien años / May he live a hundred years.

    In both of the above, the English verb form is written in a way that is the same in both the subjunctive and the bare infinitive, but that doesn't lead to the conclusion that both are the same.

    Therefore, I'd say that telling the OP that the verb "bless" is in the subjunctive mood does indeed help him.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    After "may", "bless" is not a subjunctive but a bare infinitive, but "may" may be subjunctive—

    Let them take a taxi.
    "Let" is imperative. "Take" is a bare infinitive.

    God may bless you.
    "May" is indicative. "Bless" is a bare infinitive.

    May God bless you.
    "May" is subjunctive, or a 3rd person imperative (if that makes sense). "Bless" is a bare infinitive.

    God bless you.
    "Bless" is subjunctive.

    So help you God.
    "Help" is subjunctive (or a 3rd person imperative). "You" is the direct object, and "God" is the subject".

    Go ye and teach all the nations.
    "Go" and "teach" are imperatives.

    Believe you me.
    "Believe" is imperative. "You" is the subject, and "me" is the direct object.
     
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